We all love eating out. Not only does it get us out of the kitchen, but also it provides a way for us to socialize and relax. But, when you’re trying to lose weight or just simply stay healthy, dining out can be challenging. Fortunately, by following these smart strategies you can make eating out work for you.

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Plan Ahead

While some restaurants include the nutritional information of their meals right on the menu, many still do not. If you know where you’re going to be eating, look up the menu and plan what you’ll order in advance. Stay clear of foods that are labeled as fried, crispy, au gratin or rich. Stick to foods that are grilled, baked, steamed or broiled. Look up the nutritional information of the menu items you’re considering. Many restaurants have this information posted online. Or, you can visit websites like MenuStat.org, which let you look up the nutritional information of various menu items from popular restaurants.

Be Wary of Sodium & Sugar

Many restaurants offer menu items that are listed as “low-calorie” or “light”. When considering these menu items be wary of their sodium and sugar content. While these menu items may have fewer calories or grams of fat, they’re likely filled with excess sodium or sugar. To minimize the salt or sugar content, ask for your meal to be prepared without the sauce or seasoning. Again, refer to the nutritional information, which can be found on the menu or online.

Consider the Portion Size

One of the benefits of cooking at home is you can control the portion size. Restaurants are notorious for providing above-normal portion sizes, which can result in overeating and unnecessary calories, fat, sodium and sugar. If possible, split a menu item with another person in your party, or ask the waiter to box half of it for you.  Learn about recommendations for portion control here.

Don’t Be Afraid to Substitute

With some menu items, you can pick your own sides. But with others, the sides are already provided. In the event that you aren’t asked to choose your sides, ask the waiter to substitute them. Swap out the fries and mashed potatoes for vegetables, fruit, or a side salad with the dressing on the side. When choosing your sides, be mindful of sodium, sugar and empty calories.

Skip the Cocktail

When we go out, it’s always tempting to order a signature cocktail. Unfortunately, cocktails are usually filled with excess sugar. Instead of a cocktail, choose a glass of red wine or a light beer.

By planning ahead and making smart choices, dining out can be fun for both you and your diet. For more healthy eating tips, visit our Food & Drink section!

 

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