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Beating Restaurants at Their Own Game!

Over a Dozen Dining Out Tips


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Great recommendations! Thanks. For some reason, when eating out for a special meal, I have trouble choosing items labeled "light", etc. Just takes the joy right out of it, often the meal choices look like something I cook at home, however, I'm learning that the mid-grade chains and better restaurants are often more than willing to let me make modifications to a dish I love, and often the server has light(er) suggestions. I often don't want the empty carb rice, and for a small additional cost, I can get extra fresh veggies instead. I also regularly ask that cheese be left off. It's good to ask about cheese, because it's often an overlooked add-on, but can be hard to remove later. I also now have 2 categories of eating out: special occasion in which I can indulge, and eating out in the course of the day/week. I'm rigid now about what I choose and don't allow "breakdowns" when I just happen to have to eat out. Eating out is a fact of life for most of us now, so learning some discipline is necessary if you ever hope to get and keep a waistline and stay healthy.

Again, Spark, thanks for inspiring me to make healthy choices one more day. Was feeling weak today. :) Report
I have gone to 2 restaurants recently that gave you a choice for size of your meal..small or large. I loved that. The waiter at one, Carabbas, said "Don't you want to pay a little more and take home leftovers"..No..No that's not what I want at all. I loved being able to eat my meal without feeling bloated...made me a much happier diner. Report
Outback Steakhouse now has the light style menu. I always get the Grilled Chicken on the Barbie light style (no butter or oil) and a plain side salad (no cheese or croutons) with the tangy tomato dressing on the side. It fills me up and is very delicious. Report
Most of these are great tips. But I'm a little confused by the first one..."Never go out while hungry."

Um...isn't that the purpose of going to a restaurant? Because you're hungry? Maybe I'm missing something here... Report
actually like buffets, especially golden coral. I get one plate of food not loaded but the same amount i would get at home. if im still hungry i go back for fruits and salad, i love starting with a bowl of chili. Report
When in a good mindset, buffets can be your friend. You have more control over what is put on your plate and can more easily choose appropriate foods in appropriate proportions. Of course, the key word is control - for this to work, you need to self-control and not be in the mood for a splurge. Report
Buffets can be filled with poor choices in abundance. It's better to stick to the salads or eat BEFORE you go so you are not too hungry. Report
I agree. "All you can eat" and buffets are great. I can pick exactly what I want . . . and I can see it and gauge for myself if it fits my plan for the day.

And you can control your portions.

That asking for a box and doing substitutions doesn't work well in the UK. Not all restaurants offer a takeaway service . . . and they're not used changing around the menu to suit diners . Report
I actually 'prefer' to eat at the "All You Can Eat Buffets", rather than the regular restaurants. This way, I'm not only able to control my own portion sizes, but I'm able to SEE the food BEFORE it goes on my plate and then able to make the best & healthiest choices. Report
I think you can manage going to a buffet if you limit yourself to 5-6 small portions of whatever food looks interesting and then a salad with lite dressing (and no ham, bacon, croutons, etc.). If you go again, try 5-6 different items.

Also, I'll keep a list of what I ate on my phone and e-mail it to myself so that when I get home I can put it into Spark. It's quicker than trying to enter it into Spark from your mobile phone. Report
I did well when we went out to eat a few days ago; I was able to say "no thanks" when it came time for dinner - and believe me, that is a victory!

I have also found that there are some restaraunts that are known for their more reasonable portions, just like there are some that are known for their excess. Report
this is totally where the internet on my phone comes in handy soooo much! Because fact of the matter is I am not someone who likes to deprive myself of good food. So if its a spur of the moment thing I can easily go to the restaurants website if they have one and look it up or use google and find out. that way I can figure out exactly how much i can eat without guilt. =) like if a burger is 1,000 calories (which at many restaurants it is) I can easily cut it in half and eat the rest later or just share with a friend. I am also a huge fan of diet soda. not 4 the taste but the fact that it gives me my bubbles without the guilt. Report
Depending on the location, some restraunts have great children and seniors menus. I always ask my server if I can order off one of them. I've gotten some strange looks, but never a "no". Report
Terrific article and fantastic comments. Thanks everyone! I agree that preparation is key - examining the online menu and deciding on a healthy choice before you even get there, and eating a light snack like an apple beforehand. Report
"Get a doggie bag before the meal and put in a portion of the food when it is first served."

I went on a date with my hubbie last night, our first alone since the birth of our firstborn son. We went to Olive Garden since a friend had given us a gift card. I ate more salad and only one breadstick. When my capellini pomodoro arrived for dinner, I immediately asked for a to go box and put in four cups of the dinner, leaving only one cup for that evening. Instead of inhaling 840 calories, I consumed 168 calories of a fantastic pasta dish. I didn't feel over-stuffed and even halved the lowest calorie desert with John. I ended up with a little over 600 calories total for dinner, more than I normally would eat. But, it was a once a month date night and I didn't consume too many calories for the entire day. Report

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