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Eating Out on a Diet: 8 Quick Tips

Sep 1, 2007
Did you know the average restaurant meal contains more than 1,000 calories? Even breakfast fare such as pancakes, waffles, and French toast, served in restaurant-sized portions can contain as many as 900 calories. And studies show that kids eat nearly twice as many calories when eating a restaurant meal compared with eating a meal cooked and served at home.

With all these extra calories, it's easy to sabotage your diet. Plus, we all want to get our money's worth and because we're often paying a lot more for food served at a restaurant, we may use the prices themselves as justification for cleaning the plate.

The truth is, you don't have to sacrifice flavor and nutrition when you are treating yourself to a night out. Just follow these simple guidelines.

Be wary of your drinking glass. It's easy to consume vast quantities of empty calories through a straw. A large Coke at McDonalds has more than 300 calories. And when we are sitting in a restaurant, we often find our drinks refilled over and over. The bar is no better: A pint of beer will give you about 150 calories. And a glass of dry wine will contribute 100 or so, while a jumbo margarita can get up in the 400-calorie range. You can save lots of calories (and a few dollars, too) by opting for unsweetened iced tea, a diet soft drink, or simply water with lemon or lime wedges.

Skip the appetizers. Some of these pre-meal splurges contain more fat and calories than the entree. And many appetizers are deep fried and served with rich and heavy sauces. An order of cheese fries with Ranch dressing can exceed 3,000 calories, for example. Cut this part of the meal altogether.

Go for a salad. Replace those fatty appetizers with a pre-meal salad. Fill up on the good stuff before the main meal begins and you will eat fewer calories by meal's end. And be careful not to ruin the healthy salad. Skip the Caesar option because Caesar salads are often saturated with creamy dressing. If there's an option between spinach and iceberg, choose the former. Make sure that you ask for no cheese or croutons (or remove them once the salad arrives at your table.) Opt for a vinegar-based dressing if possible. If you love Ranch or Bleu Cheese, order it on the side, and try dipping your fork into the dressing before each bite. That will give you a nice distribution of flavor and you might be surprised by how little dressing you have used once your salad plate is clear.

When choosing your entree, opt for something that has been grilled or broiled, not fried. You'll save fat grams and calories, and you'll also eat fewer of those unhealthy trans fats.

Ask your waiter or waitress to replace the starch with a second order of vegetables. You'll save on calories and get another serving of the good stuff.

Skip the cream. When ordering soup, opt for clear soups instead of cream soups. When ordering sauces, choose the tomato-based sauce over the creamy one. You'll save even more calories if you ask for all sauces to be served on the side.

When the meal comes, split it. Make a mental line down the center of your plate and stop eating once you've reached the halfway point, if not before. If you have a hard time quitting when it's time, ask for a takeout container at the beginning of your meal and remove half the meal from your plate before you even begin eating.

If you can't skip dessert altogether, choose fresh fruit or another low calorie treat. Many restaurants are offering at least one or two dessert choices that are lower in fat or calories. Give these a try. Or simply order one dessert for the entire table and make a point to eat very, very slowly. Before you know it, the dessert will be gone and so will all that temptation. And here's food for thought: Have you ever noticed that it's the first three bites of any big indulgence that we truly enjoy: way more than we enjoy subsequent bites? So take a few nibbles and truly enjoy them. Then put down your spoon. Order a cup of coffee (with some skim milk) if you still need a little something to cap your meal.

Many restaurants are offering more healthy choices than ever before, so it is becoming easier to stick to a healthy diet and have an enjoyable dining experience, as well.
About the Author
Jamie Jefferson writes for Momscape.com , Susies-Coupons.comand Susies-Travel-Coupons.com where you'll find hand-selected online coupons, coupon codes and travel discounts.
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