For some people, eating out is an occasional indulgence. For others, it's a way of life. Either way, moderate portions and careful choices can help make restaurant meals fit into an overall healthy-eating plan. Follow these tips to eat your best even when dining out.
Keep hunger under control — eat.
- Don't skip a meal on the day you're going out to eat.
- Have a light, nutritious snack — such as a piece of fruit or a glass of fat-free milk — an hour before your meal to avoid eating too much at the restaurant.
Choose restaurants that offer variety.
- Choose a restaurant that offers a wide selection of foods and fresh, low-fat options.
- Call the restaurant ahead of time to ask about healthy menu items. Or go online to check its website to see if nutrition information is posted.
Order more plant-based foods.
- Try an exotic fruit — kiwi or papaya, for example — for variety.
- Order your favorite vegetables, but don't smother them in rich, high-fat dressings or cream sauces.
- Order items that include whole-grain foods to get your fiber.
Control portion size.
- Leave food on your plate.
- If you're tempted to clean your plate, ask your server to remove it.
- Finish half your plate and ask for a carryout bag — you'll end up with two meals for the price of one.
- Order baked or broiled. Avoid fried.
- Ask for smaller portions of fatty foods — such as meats and fatty sauces — or ask for substitutions.
Cut out or cut back on the condiments.
- Taste your food before adding salt, butter, sauces and dressings.
- Order sauces and dressings on the side: Even small amounts add up.
- Substitute healthier condiments: Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. Use pepper or lemon juice in place of salt.
Approach buffets with a plan.
- Don't be tempted to overfill your plate just to get your money's worth. Instead, survey the entire buffet line and choose the healthiest options.
- Make salad your first course, with plenty of veggies, fruit, and no-fat or low-fat dressing. Then go back for the entree or just eat more salad.
Mind your manners — it'll help you cut calories.
- Eat slowly for better digestion. You'll feel full before overeating.
- Don't gulp your food; chew thoroughly.
- Order food that requires work and slows down your eating, such as crab legs.
- Share your meal with a companion.
Order beverages with few or no calories.
- Order water or sparkling water with a twist of lemon — it's healthy, filling and has no calories.
- For a hot drink, try black decaf coffee or hot tea, minus sugar and other extras.
- Be aware that alcoholic beverages may have more calories than you'd expect, and alcohol may stimulate your appetite and weaken your willpower.
Think before ordering dessert.
- Finish the main dish. By the time you're done, you may not want dessert.
- If you do order dessert, split it with a friend or take half of it home.
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