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How to Make Healthy Restaurant ChoicesHow to Make Healthy Restaurant Choices


Restaurants have come a long way in offering healthier options, but dining out when you are trying to lose weight can still be challenging. Sometimes, the problem isn't a lack of healthy options but the temptation to stray from your plan due to the environment.

Do your research.

You know how it goes when you dine out with others. People arrive and the conversations begin, leaving you little time to review the menu closely. The need to make a quick choice puts you at risk of ordering an unhealthy option, especially if others at the table are doing so. Most restaurant menus can now be found online, so take the time to research before you sit down at the table. Have an idea of three or four healthy options before you arrive.

Don’t skip the appetizer.

A major goal while dining out should be to avoid eating excess food, but that doesn’t mean you should skip a course to do it. If you show up hungry and everyone else orders an appetizer, you will have to sit and wait while they begin eating. You will likely be offered a bite, and there is a good chance it won’t be a healthy choice. Satisfy your hunger and resist making unhealthy choices by ordering a nutritious option like a house salad or a cup of broth-based soup. You will feel less deprived and in better control of your food choices for the entire meal.

Read the menu description.

Some menu options look healthy until you read the full description. Buzzwords like vegetarian, gluten-free, or light, don’t automatically mean the food is more nutritious or lower in calories. Instead, look for healthy keywords like broiled, baked, and steamed. Keep an eye out for heavy sauces and excess dressing. Ask how foods are prepared. Don’t be afraid to request less butter or ask for sauces on the side. Many times, chefs are willing to accommodate. Servers can also make suggestions that fit your dietary needs better.

Rethink dessert.

Much like ordering an appetizer, it can be difficult to watch everyone else eat a dessert. If you’ve saved a few calories to enjoy something sweet, split a dessert with a friend and eat a few bites, just until your sweet tooth is satisfied. If you want to steer clear of dessert altogether, turn to the drink section. A decaf espresso or hot tea will allow you to enjoy something so you don’t feel left out while others enjoy their desserts.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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