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Eat Out, Eat Smart

If you know how to manage the menu you can put together a meal that’s long on flavour and short on calories at most restaurants. Here are five tips to help you order wisely. 

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You can enjoy eating out guilt-free as long as you order wisely.

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1. Be Colourful

Meat and creamy sauces are usually beige, right? Where do most dishes get their brightest colors? From vegetables and fruit, of course. Choose the most colorful dishes on the menu, and chances are you’ll order the healthiest, lowest-calorie selections. Spicy red salsas, deep purple beets, green salads, yellow corn, bright orange, and yellow sweet peppers turn your plate into a rainbow of colors. And there’s another reason for filling your plate with color. Many of the substances that provide fruits and vegetables with their colors are antioxidants-potent disease-fighters that have been shown to lower heart disease and cancer risk.

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2. Order Appetizers and Sides

Another favourite dieting strategy: forgo the entrée section of the menu and order only from the appetizers and side dishes. With today’s oversized restaurant portions, an appetizer or side often makes the perfect meal by itself. Skip things like the deep-fried mozzarella, of course, and make sure your choices include at least two servings of vegetables.

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3. Dip Into the Sauce

Ordering salad dressing on the side and drizzling it on sparingly is one of the oldest diet tricks. Remember that you can order other sauces on the side, too, from gravy to guacamole. Give yourself no more than a tablespoon. And put your fork to good use. Instead of pouring on the sauce or salad dressing, dip the tips of your fork in the dressing and then spear a bite-sized portion. You’ll make a little bit of a good thing go a long way.

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4. Create Your Own Smorgasbord

If you’re dining out with friends who share your concern about overdoing it, agree to order and share entrées. If there are four of you, order two or three main dishes. You’ll get a chance to sample a wider variety of items and keep portions down to size. Be careful, though: some people offered a lot to choose from end up eating a lot more. Decide in advance to sample only two or three forkfuls of each dish. With lots of dishes on the table, it’s especially important to be aware of hunger and satiety signals. Sit back from time to time and think about whether you’ve had enough. If you have, put your fork down, raise a glass of water, and enjoy the conversation.

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5. Be a Food Critic

Remember the credo of smart dining: if it doesn’t taste great, don’t eat it. Sure you paid for it, and it’s a shame to waste food. But to finish something you don’t really like is the true crime. When you’re dining out this week, be a tough critic. Pay attention to the first few bites. Decide whether it’s good enough to finish, or whether you’d just as soon set aside calories for something else. If you dine out frequently, consider keeping a diner’s diary, with mini reviews and notes on what you had. Use a star system to award top restaurants your own rating. You’ll find yourself paying closer attention to the food you eat-and enjoying it more.

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