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Eating Out the Low-Calorie Way When You're Dieting

Eating out can pose special problems for dieters. Serving sizes are too large, and many professional kitchens don’t use low-calorie cooking methods necessary for dieters.

As a rule, the less expensive the restaurant, the more likely it is that the kitchen uses generous amounts of fat and high-fat cooking techniques — inexpensive and easy ways to add flavor to food. A fish fillet, for example, must be high quality and cooked skillfully to taste delicious broiled or baked without a coating of oil or buttery sauce.

If you dine out frequently, consider becoming a regular at one spot. That way, the wait staff and kitchen can get to know you. They can alert you to items that are especially dieter friendly, and the kitchen won’t be thrown by your special requests — a plus during the busiest dining hours.

Whether dining out is more special or a routine part of your day, keep this advice in mind:

  • Restaurant meals are often considered special occasions. More frequently, though they’re last-minute solutions when you’re too tired or stressed to make dinner. Both scenarios set you up for overindulging. Remember to look at the meal in context of the entire day’s eating or what you’ll eat over several days.

  • Restaurant meals are often loaded with fat. Fat is an easy way to make foods taste good. Fat is also cheap compared to lean meat, so restaurants use it liberally because it makes their bottom line healthy. Ask questions about preparation and request substitutions.

  • Portions may be huge. You often get twice the amount that you really need to eat. Share an entree with a friend or order two appetizers instead of one entree. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a doggie bag.

  • Menus focus on protein servings that are much too large. Meat, chicken, and fish often get the most “ink,” with little attention paid to side dishes. So cast your eye over to the side dishes section and choose from those without sauces. Another way to create a better balance may be to order your entree from the appetizer section.

  • Most meals eaten out include alcohol. Not only is alcohol calorie heavy and nutrient poor, it also lowers your resolve to eat healthfully. If you enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine when eating out, plan to limit your intake to one, and drink it with, not before, the meal.

Menus are always going to be written to entice and seduce you into ordering more than you intend. If you can discover how to read between the lines and spot the red flags for dieters, you’ll rarely be duped into ordering and eating more than you want.

When you eat ethnic, try to find out a little about the cuisine, the ingredients, and the typical methods of cooking so that foreign phrases don’t throw you.

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