Dining out is a challenge for anyone looking to eat healthy, between the large portions and rich food, your goal of self-control can quickly go out the window.
The key is to approach the meal with a strategy.
Look at the menu in advance and decide what you’re going to order before you arrive at the restaurant, because diners tend to consume more calories when they make a decision closer to the actual meal. Avoid words like “fried,” “cream” and “battered.”
Also look for “hidden land mines. Consider butter, for example. It can be melted over steak, brushed on a bun or tossed with vegetables. Mayonnaise usually finds its way into potato salad. Cream is often used to enrich soups. These ingredients may not be listed on the menu
Don’t order everything at once. You can always order more food, and the proliferation of small plates makes it easier to order as you go. That way, you don’t end up overeating. Also, if you find portion control challenging, it can help to box up a part of your meal before you start eating.
Try to be the first person to order. By starting things off, you set the tone for the meal, you won’t be swayed by what your friends are getting. Seek out lean proteins and vegetables. Lean proteins, such as chicken and fish, can make you feel full without a lot of calories. “Grilled,” “broiled,” “poached,” “lightly sautéed” and, for sauces, “on the side” are all good signs.
Salads aren’t always the best option. You don’t always know what’s in the dressing, and there can be a lot of it. Feel free to ask for it on the side, and keep in mind that salads tossed with oil and vinegar are often a better option. Avoid heavy salads especially that have proteins as breaded chicken tenders (grilled is better) and such garnishes as croutons and large amounts of cheese.
Cut back on the alcohol. The federal government’s U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest women consume no more than seven drinks per week, men twice that much. (A drink is considered to be about 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of liquor.) If you imbibe, stick to the basics — a shot with such no-calorie mixers as club soda, or a glass of wine, for example.
Split dessert with your dining companions. Fruit-based sorbets are a good alternative if you want to eat more dessert without too many calories.
Recognize when you’re full. Even with careful ordering, it can be easy to overeat, especially among the distractions of a lively environment and friends.