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How To Survive Eating Out

By employing a few tricks when eating out, you can easily avoid hidden fats, excessive salt and other common restaurant food downfalls. Here’s how.

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In Canada, it is estimated that one meal in three is eaten away from home. When you prepare food yourself, you know exactly what has gone into that meal-you can choose what type of fat-and how much of it-you use. You can control how much salt you add, and you can determine the portion sizes that go onto your plate.

The same is not true of food eaten outside the home. Restaurant food may have hidden fats and salt, takeout and fast foods often contain unhealthy trans fats, and special “buy-one-get-one-free” deals can tempt you into buying foods you wouldn’t normally eat.

We’re not suggesting that you avoid eating out at restaurants or choose the most boring “healthy” dish on the menu.

With these simple tricks, you can relax and enjoy a special dinner out, a business lunch or Saturday night pizza. If you’re properly prepared you can eat gourmet food that delights your heart and your taste buds.

Before You Leave Home   

Putting yourself into a healthy mindset before you sit down guarantees success. You can avoid the pitfalls of restaurant food without feeling deprived, by refocusing on all the possible options.

Imagine Your Meal 

Picture your plate before you pick up the phone to order a takeout, before you make a dinner reservation or before going into the restaurant. Think about the healthy choices on most menus-the thin-crust pizza loaded with vegetables, the fancy mixed-greens-and-pecans salad with vinaigrette or the mouth-watering grilled fish at your local seafood restaurant. 

Have fun treating yourself to delicious, healthy choices that you might not cook at home, from roast beets to wild salmon to wonderfully crunchy Chinese vegetables, such as snow peas, bok choy, baby corn and water chestnuts.

And, if you absolutely must have a sweet treat once in a while, plan to share one when you go out to eat -your sweet tooth will be satisfied and you won’t have to deal with the temptation of leftover desserts in your own kitchen.

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Don't Skimp On Breakfast And Lunch

Don’t Skimp On Breakfast And Lunch

Starving yourself before a big night out sounds reasonable, but this plan has a flaw: you’re ravenous and ready to overeat by the time you arrive at the restaurant (or open the pizza box at the kitchen table). A better plan is to satisfy your appetite by having adequate daytime meals and then a piece of fruit, or some yogourt and whole-grain toast, an hour or so before going to the restaurant. Worried about the extra calories and fat? Consider this: a healthy snack at home is bound to have fewer calories and more nutrients than most restaurant appetizers.

Extra Credit: Walk To The Restaurant

If you can walk from your home to your destination, do so. Other options are to arrive early, then take a walk with your dinner companions, or go for a short walk afterwards. You’ll burn extra calories and place the emphasis where it belongs: on the socializing, not just on the food.

At The Restaurant

When ordering, don’t feel shy about asking questions and making special requests to ensure that your meal is exactly what you want. Your waiter is the link between table and kitchen. Make him or her your ally. This will help you to avoid empty calories, leaving you free to enjoy your meal without guilt.

Banish The Bread Basket

To avoid extra calories of blood sugar-raising refined carbohydrates and artery-blocking saturated fat, ask the waiter to take the bread-and-butter basket away. (Or just take one piece.)

Start With Water

After that, limit yourself to one glass of wine and have it with your meal. For many people, alcohol triggers extra eating, so sipping while you wait means your resolve about the bread may just weaken.

Ask Lots Of Questions

Is the chicken in the salad grilled or in batter and then fried? What’s in the mashed potatoes? Can you have two vegetables instead of the fries? Can the fish be broiled? Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate you; if there’s a small extra charge, it’s usually worth it.

Always Ask For Sauces And Dressings Separately

You don’t need lashings of creamy dressing on your salad. When possible, choose dressings and sauces made with good fats such as olive oil instead of with cream and butter. Spoon a little over your food or dip the ends of your fork into the sauce before spearing a forkful of food. Plan to leave most of the dressing or sauce uneaten.

Choose A Sensible Starter

Avoid calorie-laden starters such as p‚tÈ or anything deep-fried. You are much better off choosing something fruit- or vegetable-based, like melon, vegetable-based soup, salad, shellfish or smoked salmon.