Does this sound familiar?
Have you ever tried to stick to a diet plan and even turned down invitations to eat out with friends for fear of sabotaging your efforts?
Has your diet guru advised you to avoid restaurant food because it could result in weight gain?
Or are your just bored with your lonely home cooked meals, and would love to eat out with friends for a change?
Well, throw caution to wind, put on your cutest thrift shop ensemble, grab your hot, new up-cycled handbag and head out the door.
Simply follow a few easy tips to enjoy dining out in restaurants without completely sabotaging your diet:
1. Don’t Go to the Restaurant Hungry
Take my advice and make sure to eat a healthy, filling, low-fat meal at home, to reduce temptation when you are sitting at the table perusing that appetizing menu.
2. View the Menu in advance
Many restaurants post their menus online so you can choose your lightest and healthiest options in advance. You can even print out the menu for reference. If the menu is not online, you can call and ask them to fax it to you, or you pick up a takeout menu.
3. Watch out for high-fat buzz words
Steer clear of high-fat menu items touting descriptions like: “au gratin, breaded, cream sauce, butter, oil, ‘with gravy’, Alfredo, smothered, battered or batter-dipped”.
4. Lighten up a high calorie menu item
Ask the waiter to have your food prepared in a lower-calorie way. For example, ask for lightly-steamed vegetables instead of over-cooked vegetables in butter; a baked potato instead of fried or mashed with butter or gravy; a poached, wild caught fish with fresh lemon instead of the fried or butter-sauteed entree. You get the idea.
5. Go small with appetizers
You can cobble together a lower-calorie yet satisfying meal with small appetizers. Just make sure to choose lighter fare such as simply-prepared vegetables, a side salad, a filling bean or vegetable soup or light protein appetizers.
6. Take home half
If you are ordering a sizable meal, it’s a good idea to ask the waiter to wrap up half of your meal as soon as it is served, in order to keep temptation at bay. Out of sight, out of mind!
7. Choose raw, vegan or vegetarian restaurants
In order to be on the safe side, you can choose to dine out at restaurants which offer only raw, vegan or vegetarian meals. However, make sure to select lighter fare if you are trying to lose weight. (This is not to say that all non-veg restaurants are bad for dieters. With non-veg restaurants, you may have to take extra care to make sure that you are not eating high-calorie or high-fat foods with saturated fats.) Wherever you go, watch out for hidden fats.
8. Use caution with buffets
A lot of the foods you see in buffets are high in calories. These foods are often cooked in bulk with a large amount of oil and salt, thereby making them unsuitable for those who are trying to shed some pounds. If you really want to eat from buffets, make sure you steer clear of rich, fatty foods and choose lighter, healthier alternatives instead.
9. Let the Salad Dressing Go
You have heard a zillion times that salads are good for quick weight loss. The reason behind this is that salads are nothing but raw vegetables in chopped form. Raw vegetables, as you might be aware, help you burn fat by boosting your metabolic rate. However, the salad dressing that is provided in most restaurants is rich in calories and unhealthy additives. So whenever you ask for salads, make sure to instruct them to serve your salad dressing on the side, not tossed into your salad. Ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side or a few lemon wedges.
10. Make a Meal from Side Dishes
Often you can create a low-fat, delicious meal from a carefully-chosen side dishes. Tell the waiter you are on a special diet and ask for his help. Opt steamed vegetables. Simply-prepared beans. A baked potato. Brown rice. Whole wheat pasta. A baked sweet squash or yam. A simple house salad.
11. Control Your Portions
Check the amount of food you are going to eat before you take that bite! If you think that the food provided to you exceeds the portion control limit you are allowed, eat according to your portion limit and then carry the leftovers back home to be eaten the next day.
12. You Can Have Your Dessert and Eat It Too
By all means, try to avoid those tempting, sugary, high-calorie, high-fat elaborate desserts and simply order a plate of fresh fruit for dessert and a cup of herbal tea. You can drop a few stevia packets in your bag to sweeten your tea, if desired.
13. Lighten Up on Beverages Too
Sip on water with lemon wedges or unsweetened ice tea. Have a lighter, healthier fruit soda with fruit juice and seltzer water with a slice of lime. If you opt for wine, reduce the calories by mixing it with seltzer water. Garnish with a slice lemon or lime and enjoy the festivities.
So go ahead and live a little! As long as you use your discretion and follow a few simple rules, there is nothing wrong with eating out at a restaurant once in while while on a diet.
How do you handle this situation? What are your tips for dining out while on a weight loss or special diet? Share your comments below.