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Eating Out the Healthy Way

How to dine out without overdoing it
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Resisting temptation at a restaurant can be tough, especially when you're taunted by seemingly unlimited choices -- like when they roll around the dessert cart.

So how do we eat meals away from home without overindulging? The key is portion control, along with a little advance planning.

Americans eat an estimated one-third of our calories outside the home. And when we eat out, we tend to eat more than when we eat at home. This probably comes as no surprise, since most restaurants serve larger portions than we do at home.

One sure way to control your calories while enjoying a break from the kitchen is to keep your portion guide in mind. Consider ordering an appetizer and a salad, or a soup and salad, for your meal. Or save half your dinner and bring it home in a doggie bag for tomorrow's lunch.

Choosing a Restaurant

Most types of restaurants, both casual and fine-dining, work well on a weight loss program -- except one. I would caution against the all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant. Let's face it, there's entirely too much temptation in this setting.

Of course, if your favorite restaurant happens to be a buffet and you are one of those remarkably controlled people who can stick to a healthy eating plan in face of abundance, by all means -- enjoy. But if you are like me and my family, buffets are far too tempting and not on the list of go-to restaurants.

I dare you to find an eatery that does not offer at least a few healthy options. Grilled chicken sandwiches and green salads are featured on most fast-food menus. Family-style restaurants offer a variety of healthy options: soups, vegetables, salads, lean meats, fish, and simply prepared poultry dishes. Even steakhouses usually have a few seafood options, or a smaller portion of lean meat available.

Keep It Simple

Ordering foods that are simply prepared is your best strategy when eating out. Sauces and casseroles are mysteries and generally include lots of cream, butter, cheese, or other fats.

In fact, restaurant food tastes good in part because the chefs don't hesitate to add lots of fat. Feel free to ask your waiter to hold the butter, or whether your meal could be made with very little fat.

Simple foods like grilled fish or steamed veggies are delicious if they are dusted with spices, or topped with salsa or a squeeze of fresh lemon. Start learning to savor the taste of fresh foods, prepared simply, and forgo the added ingredients that pump up the calories.

One ingredient often found on or in restaurant food is cheese, which can cost you plenty of extra fat and calories. Cheese is nutritious when eaten in moderation, so just make sure it is in your eating plan before you order something made with cheese.

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