10 Diet Disasters to Avoid When Dining Out

Family, mother and father with adult children and daughter

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going to happen the next time you eat out. First, there’s that huge bowl of fettuccine Alfredo, washed down with 3 of those tall, cool glasses of fruity drinks, followed by a large slice of Oreo cookie cheesecake. Then you will serve yourself up a big old plate of regret in the morning and spend hours checking the scale and mirror for the results of that night, right?

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Dining out doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself, nor does it mean that you should abandon all hope and dive head first into that plate of fried appetizers. Check out our top 10 smart strategies that will allow you to eat out and actually enjoy it.


1.  The menu is only a suggestion

If you can, read the menu online of the restaurant you plan to go to before you actually go. If not, then survey the entire menu and don’t let the wait staff hurry you. If the dish you want has high fat or high calorie sides, ask about substitutions.  Almost all restaurants will cook things via a lower fat method (such as grilling instead of deep frying) and are willing to substitute things such as steamed veggies for fries. Read more about healthy substitutions.


2.  3 Bites and You are Done

Not the main course, we mean dessert. It’s very common nowadays for folks to order one or two desserts and share them. Of course, your tablemates will expect you to at least taste them! No problem, take 3 bites of that delicious dessert, then ask the waiter to remove your fork. Seriously, this works. You won’t eat with your fingers (at home, yes, in the restaurant, well, we hope not!) and your friends will have no problem finishing off that double hot fudge chocolate chip cake.


3.  Sharing

This is one of the best ways to handle eating out. Take that ginormous bowl of broccoli stuffed cheese chicken and pasta and split it with a friend. Or you can always ask your waiter to bag half of it before it even reaches your table. Voila! Now you have lunch already made for you!


SEE ALSO: 14 Steps to Cut Out Processed Food and Start Eating Real Food

4. Sit in a quiet location

This is a very little known fact, but folks who sit near windows or in other distracting parts of the restaurant (like in front of that big screen TV) tend to eat, and drink, considerably more. It’s just so easy to lose track of how much food you are packing away. So ask for a quiet table. If you end up in a noisy, busy spot, tell them you will wait for a more secluded table. It will be worth your time.


5.  Choose appetizers

Lately, appetizers have become meal size and meals have become enough for two, sometimes three! So check out the appetizers. Often you can find some healthful options such as steamed seafood, shrimp cocktail, and salads that aren’t drowning in bacon and three different cheeses. Often you will find that a salad, combined with an appetizer, fits the bill. Just be aware, however, that some appetizers are loaded with cheese, fried, or have creamy sauces that will jack up the fat and calorie count, so make your choices wisely.

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Chef decorating a dish in restaurant kitchen

Photo credit: bigstock

6. Enjoy alcohol in moderation

Those pretty, fruity little drinks can be real diet killers, friends. Ice water with lemon is free, but those mixed drinks (besides being 7.50 or more) have tons of empty calories. Have a light beer, one mixed drink (such as a martini) or a glass of wine, but no more. You might want to sip water with lemon (see the benefits of it) and enjoy your alcohol with your meal. Others like to wait and have their alcohol after the meal. No matter which you choose, keep your alcohol intake down tonight and you will be much happier tomorrow.


7. Look for those red flags

Anything described as breaded, crunchy, crispy, glazed, creamy, or fried means high fat and high calories. Order lean protein and non-starchy veggies either broiled or baked and you can’t go wrong.


8. Keep that enemy off the table

Before the server even tells you their name, tell them you don’t want any kind of bread brought to your table. If you must have something to munch on while you are waiting, ask for a small bowl of olives or limes.


9.  Start with a simple salad

Consider always starting your meal with what is commonly called a garden salad, and ask for the oil and vinegar on the side. These salads often have around 100 calories but they may keep you from eating as much as 11 percent fewer calories overall.


10.  Watch those menu descriptions

There is a reason those entrees say things like “ripe heirloom tomatoes” or” tender, super juicy all white chicken breast” or “velvety chocolate mousse”. There have been several research studies that show that those kinds of words have a big impact on diners’ emotions and can increase sales by as much as 23 percent. They can even influence what you think the food tastes like!  If the menu says it’s juicy, your taste buds expect juicy, and son of a gun, guess what? That chicken breast sure was juicy! Don’t fall for these colorful adjectives.