Following a weight loss regimen doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life. Dining out is a fact of life. Don’t hole up at home and refuse invitations. Enjoy yourself! Revel in date night, dinner with friends, or a family gathering at your favorite restaurant and still lose weight.
The key is focusing on what you CAN eat and not what you can’t. If you do have a minor slip-up, remember it takes approximately 3,500 calories to gain a pound. Get right back on track and your waistline won’t know the difference. Adopt some of these tried and true tips for nutritious, healthy dining out:
1- Be a Sleuth: Surf the Web and find out if the restaurant you’ll be eating at has an online menu. Chain restaurants are the easiest, as most post menus and nutritional information. Smaller, independent joints may not be as convenient. The best tactic is to them and ask them to fax you over a menu. Check out the options before you go and determine the healthiest choices. This way you can avoid one of those panic choices when the waiter or waitress gets around to taking your order.
2- Be Decisive: If there is any way you can choose the restaurant, go for it. None of the, “I don’t know. Where do you want to go?” If your dining out partners ask you for advice, take full advantage. Opt for a nearby establishment that uses local ingredients. They tend to have an array of healthy options. Or, keep an eye out for places that have entrees under a certain calorie level. This way you can eat what you want, guilt-free. You’ll be less likely to eye up everyone else’s plate and feel deprived.
3- Skip the Bread: You’ve probably heard this a million times. But it works. There’s nothing inherently wrong with bread. However, your entree will more than likely have carbohydrates and the bread is just added calories. Save the doughy goodness for your next sandwich. It takes willpower, but you’ve made it this far.
4- Befriend the Appetizer Menu: Not only are the portions smaller, but your wallet will thank you too. Go for an appetizer that is full of vegetables and protein and stay away from anything fried, creamy, or cheesy. Order a salad or a soup that’s not cream-based to start your meal. The fiber will diminish your appetite. Ask the server to bring out your appetizer along with everyone else’s meal.
5- Watch the Buzz Words: When ordering an entree, avoid buzz words such as fried, cream, battered, cheesy, battered, butter, au gratin, breaded, or Alfredo. Look for the good buzz words, like grilled, baked, poached, steamed, roasted, broiled, or boiled. If you decide on poultry, either ask for skinless poultry or remove the skin yourself. Remember, when in doubt ask the server about the ingredients.
6- Salad Dressing on the Side Can Be a Fat Trap: Even if you get dressing or sauce on the side, it’s still much more than the standard serving. Pour a small amount on your plate and ask the server to take the rest away.
7- Get Rid of Temptation: We often pick at our plate long after we’re full, just because it’s there, particularly at restaurants. Ask the server to wrap up half of your meal before he or she even brings it to the table. Don’t worry. They won’t think it’s strange. They are definitely used to it.
8- Have a Pre-Meal Snack: People always say to avoid going to the grocery store when you’re starving. The same holds true at restaurants. If your stomach is growling, all rational thinking goes out the window. Have a healthy snack within a half hour of your meal. Munch on a handful of nuts or an apple. In fact, studies have shown that people who ate a whole, fresh apple with the skin on, prior to a large pasta meal, ate less than their non-apple eating counterparts.
9- Prepare for a Splurge: If you know in advance that the restaurant has a killer dessert that you just can’t miss out on, don’t get stressed. Instead, eliminate a serving of carbohydrates and some fats from your day. If you have a salad for lunch, skip the dressing and instead use fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sea salt on top of your greens. At the restaurant, split the dessert with someone and eat slowly, savoring the texture and flavor.
Deprivation and a total avoidance of food-related activities sets you up for binge eating when you’re trying to watch your weight. Don’t think of anything as a “diet.” It’s merely adopting a healthy lifestyle. Stay involved, eat, see friends and family, and have fun. Preparation and knowledge will ensure that you can still lose weight even if you have forkful of that decadent chocolate cake.
Colleen writes the healthy diets section at Diet Plans Weekly, a site dedicated to helping readers lose weight through healthy, natural diets and exercise. She is also a yoga teacher, freelance writer, and former weight loss consultant.