Americans are eating out more than ever — and we have our expanding waistlines to show for it. But a restaurant doesn’t have to be a scary minefield filled with fatty caloric dishes. Dining out healthfully simply takes a little planning. “The best advice I can give is to read the menu online ahead of time and preplan what you’re going to eat,” says Eileen Behan, a registered dietician and author of For the Love of Food: The Diet That Works. Read on for more savvy tips before you sidle up to the table:
Bread, Butter and Booze
These three tend to be the downfall for most dieters, so take action as you enter the restaurant. “Simply tell the waiter you’d rather not have bread or crackers on the table,” suggests Behan. Go easy at the bar, too; for every drink you consume, have a glass of water (you’ll stay hydrated and end up consuming less alcohol and fewer calories).
If you’re eating on the late side, be sure to have a snack before you go out so you’re not starving at the restaurant. Beginning the meal on the lighter side will also help take the edge off your hunger without racking up calories (pick a broth-based soup or shrimp cocktail).
Think choosing greens in a bowl is a better choice than a sandwich? Actually, some salads pack tons of calories if they’re laden with fatty toppings and drowning in dressing. “An ounce of cheese and a rounded tablespoon of craisins are 100 calories each, so ask for these on the side or leave them off,” says Behan.
Fish Fake Out
Salmon contains heart-healthy fats, but not all fish preparations are created equal. The smart way is to order fish grilled, broiled or poached, rather than fried in a butter sauce or with crumbs. Other words to watch for (and avoid) include crispy, creamed and au gratin.