How to dine out without ruining your diet


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You've been eating healthy all week and then the night your diet dreads most rears its ugly head. Saturday night. The night to dine out. The night when you open up that menu and find fattening, delicious dishes that you swear are calling your name.

It's hard to resist that creamy pasta sauce and fried calamari. But if you arm yourself with these tips before your next restaurant night, you’ll have an easier time making the right choices for your waistline.

  1. You may have heard people say, “I’d rather eat my calories than drink them.” When you're at a restaurant, choose water or unsweetened tea, and you’ll free up more calories to enjoy later in your meal.

  2. When it comes to meats and veggies, avoid words such as “fried or sautéed,” suggests ChooseMyPlate.gov, which operates through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion to help improve nutrition in the U.S. Instead, choose buzzwords such as steamed, grilled or broiled.

  3. While most salads seem like a good option, watch for calorie- and fat-laden toppings, such as salad dressing, bacon, buttery croutons and nuts. While nuts are a healthy form of fat, as is the olive oil in some salad dressings, watch the quantity you eat by asking the server to bring toppings and dressing on the side.

  4. Reduce the fat and calories in your meal be requesting, "No butter, please."

  5. Avoid any dishes with gravy or sauces made with cream.

  6. When ordering pasta, ask the server if there is a whole-wheat option and order vegetable-heavy or tomato-based sauces, rather than creamy options like alfredo.

  7. When it comes to diners, which are a haven for greasy, late-night foods, Shape magazine suggests sticking with eggs and add in lots of vegetables for a scramble or omelette.

  8. If fast food is your only option, try a veggie burger. (Use caution: Not every veggie burger is your friend.) And many fast-food spots have fruit as a choice for your side now, rather than French fries.

  9. Pay attention to the sizes on the menu. For example, Fitness magazine says a serving of steak is 5 ounces, about the size of the palm of your hand. Many meals have smaller portions available. If not, use the old trick of immediately putting the extra food in a doggy bag to take home later, leaving only what should be a proper serving for your meal.

  10. Finally, while many restaurants are starting to notate their menus to alert diners to gluten-free options, not all are on board with this yet. To be safe, explain to your server the items you need to avoid (wheat, barley, rye, flour, breading, etc.) and ask how your foods are prepared. Gluten-Free Living magazine suggests a plain baked potato with grilled meat and plain vegetables. Or find a restaurant with gluten-free foods with Gluten Intolerance Group’s “find a restaurant tool.”