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85 Tips & Strategies for Dining Out

Take the Challenge Out of Dining
  -- By SparkPeople
We spend more money and waste more calories by dining out than ever before. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that we eat 29% of our meals away from home. And the National Restaurant Association says that these meals take up 44% of our food budgets. This could grow to 53% in the next few years.

As if it’s not already, eating out is about to become a bigger and bigger dieting challenge. Sticking to your guns away from home is hard for many reasons. They all seem to boil down to this dilemma: How can you possibly have control of your diet when you don’t control your eating environment?

But here’s the surprise—you CAN control your environment, no matter where you eat! You are the customer and you are in charge. From the time you pick up the car keys to the time you pick up the check, only you can decide whether to take a simple step forward or allow yourself to be coaxed (and yes, sometimes even manipulated) into busting your calorie budget.

Here are some ideas and strategies that will help you take charge of your next culinary adventure, every step of the way:

1-  Choosing a Restaurant
2-  Before Leaving the House
3-  When You Sit Down
4-  Ordering Up
5-  Appetizers
6-  Soups & Salads
7-  Entrees
8-  Side Dishes
9-  When the Meal Arrives
10-Desserts

1) CHOOSING A RESTAURANT
Eating healthy while eating out is all about one word: preparation. If you go into a restaurant cold, without any thought, you’ll be more susceptible to the creamy, the fatty and the gooey before you can prepare your defenses. Give yourself a chance by giving yourself options.
2) BEFORE LEAVING THE HOUSE
Sometimes, the battle is lost before we even open the door. Know what you’re getting yourself into so you’re not surprised later or forced to choose between two deep-fried evils. All it takes is a few minutes.
3) WHEN YOU SIT DOWN
This is a critical point that sets the tone for the rest of the evening. It’s when much of our mindless munching happens, we can see and smell the food all around us, and we’re usually at our hungriest. If there were ever a perfect time to take charge of your experience, this is it. Get off on the right foot.
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4) ORDERING UP
Many people stumble here as they make split-second decisions and rationalize away poor choices. But since you have a plan ahead of time, it should make it easier to stay on course. If you’re faced with a menu and no time to prepare, there are still a number of rules of thumb and tricks you can use.
5) APPETIZERS
When faced with a menu, the first reaction of many dieters is to skip right to the entrees without considering an appetizer. While they may believe they’re eating less this way, jumping right into the heavy stuff when hungry may actually load on more calories. To stave off hunger or the desire to binge, try to start with something other than the entrée.
6) SOUPS & SALADS
Often high in fiber, the right soups and salads can curb hunger and add a bunch of vegetables and nutrients to your meal. Much better to be filling up on leafy greens at the beginning of your meal after all, than munching on those last few dozen french fries on your plate.
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7) ENTREES
Ah, the centerpiece of your meal – and usually the biggest collection of calories. Still, there is no need to sacrifice fulfillment and taste for the sake of eating lighter. You are usually safe with this course if you simply make good choices in two areas: preparation methods and sauces.
8) SIDE DISHES
This course is so often an afterthought, but can really make or break your dining out diet. It’s a great opportunity to load up on nutrients and build confidence with some smart choices.
9) WHEN THE MEAL ARRIVES
How you eat is often as important as what you eat. Dining out is not a race, or a contest, or a chance to solidify your membership in the Clean Plate Club. It’s a chance to enjoy yourself and a good meal. Guilt can ruin everything. You can choose to not feel guilty (not likely for many of us), or you can give yourself less to feel guilty about. A few small eating strategies will make your experience away from home a positive one and help you build momentum for next time.
10) DESSERTS
You’ve done so well so far, don’t mess it up now! A healthy meal is something to build on, not an excuse to splurge on a triple fudge brownie volcano. You can have a delicious send-off without completely depriving your sweet tooth.