Dining Out the Healthy Way

We've all been there‚- your diet is going great, you've been hitting the gym, cooking healthy meals, and planning out your breakfasts and lunches like a pro. Then, wham!, you realize you have to meet the girls for dinner, take your kids for pizza, and go out to eat with your boss all in one week. Or, like us, you just aren't willing to sacrifice dining out in order to achieve your weight loss goals. In any case, it's important to know that there is a way to eat out without the guilt.

If you know where you'll be going, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. Many chain restaurants have websites that provide you with nutritional information for most of the items on the menu. One positive remnant of the low-carb craze is that Applebees Light Menu Optionsmany restaurants are finally wising up to the need for healthy options on the menu. Applebees has Weight Watcher's-friendly offerings with Points Values right on the menu and Chili's offers a Guiltless Grill and prints nutritional information on the menu as well. If the restaurant you'll be going to doesn't have nutritional info on the website, check out www.dwlz.com for a comprehensive listing or pick up a copy of Marta Schueneman's book Eat Out Smart for caloric information on many restaurants on-the-go. The American Heart Association also has a great list of suggestions for nearly any cuisine.

If you don't know where you'll be going ahead of time or aren't going to a chain, there are still plenty of ways to make healthy decisions. The first thing you can do is order smaller portions. You can order from the lunch menu or ask if they'll wrap up half of your entrée before even serving it to you. This will help you cut down on calories (and maybe save you money or give you dinner for tomorrow) before the meal even begins.

Now on to the menu… There are plenty of things to avoid‚- creamy sauces, fried foods, anything you know to be greasy, and of course, the dreaded bread basket. But let's focus instead on what you should order. For meats, grilled is the key word here. Chicken, seafood, even steak, is much healthier when prepared on a grill than any other preparation method. For side dishes, avoid starches and load up on veggies or a salad. Order salad with a low fat dressing on the side, and dip your fork into the dressing instead of pouring it over your salad. Ask for double portions of a vegetable rather than a starch. And don't be afraid to ask how the food is prepared and for changes to the preparation, you're paying for it for goodness sake! You'd be shocked at how much oil and butter is used in restaurants, ask for your food without it or with as little as possible.

While you're eating, enjoy your food and eat slowly. Dining out should be more about the experience than the act of eating. Savor your company and the atmosphere as well as the food and you'll be on your way to a healthy restaurant

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