Dinner Plans? How to Eat Smart When You Eat Out



When most of us eat out, our barometer for calorie counts goes way off. In fact, two recent studies show that the average person consumes more when they sit down at a restaurant than when they grab a fast food meal. University of Toronto researchers analyzed the nutritional information of food ordered at 19 sit-down restaurant chains and found that the average meal contained 1,128 calories compared to 881 calories that previous research found the average fast food meal delivered (read more about the studies here). Luckily, whether you're eating at your local vegan, organic cafe or greasy spoon, there are key things you can keep in mind to stay on track with your healthy diet.

  • Avoid the bread basket or, at the very least, avoid white bread. A good way to avoid temptation is to ask the waiter to remove the bread basket.
  • Ask for your side vegetable dishes to be steamed.
  • Always opt for dishes made with lower-calorie cooking methods for your main courses: broiled, roasted, grilled or baked without added fat for meat and broiled, grilled, baked, steamed, blackened or poached for seafood.
  • Avoid anything that says buttered, breaded, battered, fried, crispy or au gratin.
  • Request that they hold the salt and opt instead to salt as needed when you get your dish.
  • Ask for dressing to be served on the side and avoid any creamy dressings.
  • Because we tend to eat past the point where we are already full, if you're going to a restaurant that serves big portions, separate out part of your main course for a doggie bag before you start eating. When possible, order a half-portion for your main course and load up on side vegetebles and salads. Alternatively, opt for an appetizer, a vegetable side and share your main course.
  • Choose fruit for dessert.
  • Replace white with brown rice.
  • Replace cream-based with clear-broth soups.
  • Minimize alcohol as it's devoid of nutrients and high in calories; you'll want to be especially mindful to stay away from cocktails made with sugary fillers.
  • Keep it simple with everything — especially key when it comes to sides — by avoiding dishes heavily sauced. When possible, always ask for sauces to be served on the side.
  • When dining at Japanese restaurants avoid mayo and fried fish, which can often be hidden in and on top of sushi.
  • Eat an apple an hour before going to the restaurant to avoid cravings and impulse decisions.

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