If you know me well, you know I’m not a huge fan of eating out. Most of the time I just prefer my own food. Given the choice of a restaurant salad or my own, I’ll take my own every time! I realize I’m in the minority, as most people love to eat away from home and do so often.
The problem is that restaurant food is usually higher in calories (and other unsavory stuff) and often results in overdoing. To make sure eating out doesn’t equal unwanted pounds, follow this advice.
Skip the appetizers.
This one is a no-brainer. Why eat a meal right before your meal? Appetizers never made sense to me and they still don’t. If you MUST eat before your meal, have a small salad or something light, like shrimp cocktail or smoked salmon.
If you work with me (or have ever eaten out with me) you know this is my secret weapon for staying slim. I eat a boatload of salad! The trick for making salad work is knowing how to order it. Salad calories can add up if you don’t order smart.
First, make sure to order the salad dressing on the side so you can control how much you use. You can have any dressing you want (yes, even the blue cheese). Just don’t let them pour ½ cup of it over your salad. Instead, use the dip and stab method: dip your fork in the dressing, then stab your salad. You’ll use 99% less than what they normally pour on and still enjoy it. Second, remove any unnecessary items from your salad when ordering. Skip the dates or dried fruit, croutons, cheese, and other high-calorie toppings.
Order as if.
This tip works great if you eat out more than a few times per week and restaurant food has become a way of life, versus a special occasion. The idea is to think about how you would eat at home and order as if you were. Do you eat an appetizer before your meal? Do you finish a bottle of wine with dinner? When it comes to ordering your entree, do you normally put butter, cheese AND sour cream on your potato? Do you fry cheese? Do you eat a basket of bread with dinner? Probably not. I’m not saying you can’t indulge a little, just don’t make every eating decision over the top.
Order double sides (veggie sides that is).
This is a simple trick I use often. When a salad isn’t an option, I choose my entree based on the preparation and side dishes. I choose the one that contains the most veggies and skip the potatoes, polenta, pasta, grits, or the huge portion of rice. I also ask for double veggies. A double order of broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, or carrots (yes, even carrots!) is always a better, more filling choice than a high calorie, low fiber side.
Learn the lingo.
Not sure how to navigate chef talk? Let me help you break it down.
When reading menu descriptions, avoid these terms: fried, au gratin, braised, buttered, creamed, casserole, scalloped, pan-fried, charbroiled, pan-seared, breaded, batter-dipped, and tempura. Also avoid: thick butter sauces, béarnaise, creamed, gravy, Hollandaise, cheese, or cream sauce.
Instead, look for these words: simply grilled, broiled, flame-cooked, steamed, poached, roasted, or baked. For sauces, stick to wine, or thinned, stock-based sauces.
I hope this helps you stick to a plan next time you eat out at a restaurant!