Eat Out. But Eat Smart.

Stay Healthy Eating OutLet’s face it. Eating out has become the norm, and not the special occasion that it once used to be.  It’s convenient.  It’s fast.  And depending on the restaurant, it’s pretty darn good, too.  For the busy woman, the availability of dining out options has been a time saver for feeding the hungry troops waiting at home.

There is no denying that the best meals are always going to be home made.  You control the ingredients, the cooking methods, and the portions.  With restaurants, and especially fast food chains, anything goes, and that usually translates to hefty calories.  Bad news if you’re trying to lose weight.

But eating out doesn’t have to cause you to sacrifice your healthy habits or back track your weight loss achievement.  Follow these tips for getting the calories out of the restaurant meals while still ordering your favorites.

How to Stay Healthy Eating Out

Eat well during the day.  A healthy day of eating consists of a generous, protein-packed breakfast, a well-balanced lunch with protein and veggies, a light dinner, and numerous protein-packed snacks in between. By continuing this healthy routine during the day, by the time you get to dinner, you won’t be starving and be tempted to over order or overeat.

Stop ordering drinks.  Not only is the one glass of soda loaded with the equivalent of about 10 cubes of sugar, but most restaurants have servers walking around refilling your glass. So by the end of the meal, who knows how much calories you’ve consumed from drinks alone. Especially if you’re ordering “to go” definitely skip the drink. If you’re dining in, ask for water with some lemon slices. Or if you must, switch to diet drinks. But truly, you should be cutting down on soda as a regular part of your food makeover anyway.

Skip the bread and rolls.  Many family restaurants still serve a bread basket with your meal. Unless it’s a fresh baked loaf or some really special bread, just skip it. You don’t need to fill up on ordinary bread when you’re paying good money for a meal anyway. Just ask for it to be taken away if you can’t resist, but you’re a big girl – come on, you can resist, if you want to.  You can simply choose not to put a roll on your plate.  Try it, just once and see if you don’t walk out of that restaurant feeling strangely powerful. If you simply can’t resist, leave off the butter. Freshly baked wholemeal rolls are just as flavorsome without it.

Say NO to super sizing.  Restaurant sizes are already too big to begin with, so there’s really no need to upgrade. Better still, order one dinner and ask for an extra plate to share the meal with your dining partner. Another option is to order from the so called “appetizer” menu. Two people could order three entrees, one dessert and split the whole thing and it’s still a ton of food!

Slow down!  What’s the rush?  Take your time, savor the moment, enjoy the flavors.  A big part of getting in touch with your hunger signals and learning to eat what really will satisfy is learning to recognize the subtle signs of hunger.  You won’t know when you’re approaching satisfaction if you’ve gobbled everything down in five minutes.   Make an effort to chew your food and your body will be much happier.  A large part of digestion begins in your mouth, not to mention you’ll get much more pleasure if you let the food linger.  Besides, it’s your night off from cooking, so relax and enjoy the evening.

Trim visible fat and skin.  I know, you really love the skin– it tastes good.  But are those few seconds of pleasure of a yummy taste, worth a lifetime of carrying around an extra 40 lbs?  Whilst you do need fat to burn fat, most should come from good fat (mono-unsaturated) found in nuts, olive oil, avocado and seafood.  Saturated fat such as that found in meat or dairy products should be eaten in limited amounts.  If you can’t resist, go on, have a wee bit, but discard as much as you can.  Better yet, order the fish and remove the temptation altogether.

Doggie-bag it before you eat.  Ask for a doggie bag at the beginning of meal.  When the food is served, immediately portion off some to take home for tomorrow.  Most restaurants in the US serve way too much anyway.  Do this frequently and soon you’ll find you’re getting an extra lunch out of that meal.

Split dessert.  At the end of your meal, you’re probably very full and don’t really need dessert.  But if you must, share dessert with at least one more person, or better yet, ask for a bowl of berries or dark chocolate mint to satisfy your sweet craving.

Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to give up the foods you love, or that you have to avoid eating at your favorite restaurant. It simply means that you have to make smarter choices if you really want to get a handle on your weight, no matter where you eat.  Look first to where you eat, second at what you eat, and third how much you eat.

Try these steps choosing one tip at a time, and see how easily you can take some of the calories out of restaurant food and stay healthy eating out.

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