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Photo Credit: rucus.org

Photo Credit: rucus.org

You have been eating healthy the entire week, going to the gym every day (well almost every day), eating your 5-a-day of vegetables and limiting luxuries. Today your friends or family decided they want to go to a restaurant. Now what? Do you fake a sudden onset of flu or come up with some excuse of how tired you are after this week? There is no reason to give up on your healthy lifestyle every time you visit a restaurant. And there definitely is no reason to sit out every time your loved ones go out.  Try these easy and practical tips to keep you motivated and on the right track:

  1. Ask for the food your way: Be an assertive consumer by asking for changes on the menu. If an item is fried, asked for it grilled. If it comes with fries, ask for a side of vegetables or salad. If you would like a potato, ask for baked. Very often the restaurant will cooperate.
  1. Ask for a bigger portion of vegetables / salad: A side of vegetables / salad is often garnishing. When ordering ask for extra vegetables / salad and offer to pay extra (if necessary). You will get full and not fat.
  1. Ask how the food was prepared – don’t go by the menu: Cholesterol-free does not necessarily mean fat-free. The dish can still be filled with calorie-dense oils. Neither does ‘lite’ necessarily mean light in calories or fat.
  1. Order from the healthy / light / low-fat entrées: Often chains will list the calories and nutritional content of food. Ask the waiter if you are uncertain.
  1. Beware of low-carb options: Restaurants have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, offering various low-carb options on their menu. Low-carb doesn’t always mean low calories. Sometimes the meal is loaded with fat / oils / butter, increasing the fat and energy intake.
  1. Share an entrée with your dining partner: If not possible to share, ask the waiter to box half of the entrée before it gets to the table. Restaurants can sometimes serve two to three times more than what is indicated as a serving.
  1. Try double appetizers: If there is a nice selection of appetizers on the menu, consider skipping the entrée and ordering two appetizers instead.
  1. Order a salad before anything else: Research found that people who ate a big vegetable salad before a main meal ate fewer calories when compared to people who did not have a salad.
  1. Salads or vegetables should not be fatty: The vegetable course should be tasty and healthy. Avoid any creamy sauces, buttered and sugared vegetables, bacon bits, fried noodles or potatoes. Load up on raw vegetables or well-drained marinated / grilled vegetables. For a variety add nuts or fruit.
  1. Watch the add-ons in a salad: Salads that are loaded with meats / cheeses and rich, creamy dressings can be high in calories. Choose a salad with raw vegetables instead. Ask for the salad dressing on the side.
  1. Do a fork dip: The best way to combine salad with salad dressing is to dip the fork in the salad dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. This tastes great and you will consume less salad dressing.
  1. Check the menu before you leave home: By doing this you can decide what you want to eat before leaving the house – this reduces the chance of choosing unhealthy meals. Alternatively, if there are no healthy options on the menu, you can choose another restaurant.
  1. Read between the lines: Look out for menu descriptions like creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, stuffed, fried, buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, cheese sauce, scalloped, au fromage or au lait. They all indicate high fat, which means high calories.
  1. Skip the bread basket: If you want to munch on something rather order a salad / some raw vegetables or bread sticks.
  1. Skip the fancy drinks: If you want to order an alcoholic drink, forget the cocktails. They include sugary additions that only add calories. A better alternative is a glass of wine, a light beer, a vodka and tonic or a simple martini.
  1. Top a baked potato with vegetables from the salad bar: Or ask if they have salsa. Avoid the butter and sour cream.
  1. Order fish: Choose grilled fish and ask for the garlic butter on the side.
  1. Drink water throughout the meal: Order a bottle of water for the table, it will help you slow down, enjoy the food more and let the message get to your brain that you are full – before your plate is empty.
  1. Always dress up to go out: If you view eating out as an event or treat, rather than a way to get an everyday dinner, you won’t eat out as often.
  1. Skip the dessert: If they have a sorbet on the menu – this is a healthier alternative to choose. Or wait until you get home and have a block of chocolate. If you really want dessert – order one and share with your dining partner.
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