How to Eat Healthier When Dining Out

PHOTO: Diane Henderiks offers her healthy tips for dining at restaurants.
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Ever go out to dinner and at the end of the meal say to yourself, "Wow, I can't believe I ate the whole thing?" Think about this, the recommended serving of pasta is one cup which equals 200 calories and that's without any sauce. A restaurant serving of pasta is usually about three to four cups and you may not even realize it because the plates at most restaurants are much larger than a typical dinner plate. That means that you are being served an additional 400-600 calories on this supersized saucer -- and this IS NOT the amount you are supposed to eat at one sitting! To add insult to injury, studies have shown that the larger the portion given at a restaurant, the more food a customer will eat regardless of how hungry he or she is. In other words, if it's in front of you -- you will probably clean your plate.

Eating out is a pleasure and everyone deserves the experience and break from the kitchen. For me the mere fact that someone else is cooking, serving and cleaning up is the clincher. Unfortunately, dining out can do some damage to your waistline if you are not armed and ready with a little knowledge and a lot of self control.

Here are some of my tips to help you dine out without busting a button.

Think ahead

Check out the restaurant menu ahead of time to reduce impulse ordering. Don't starve yourself the same day you are going out to eat. This will most likely backfire and lead to not-so-healthy food choices. Instead have a lighter lunch and a small snack an hour or two before going out Watch the booze! If you plan to imbibe, limit yourself to one glass of wine, cocktail or beer. Alcohol can pack on the pounds and weaken your willpower.

Learn the lingo

Familiarize yourself with healthy cooking techniques and don't be shy -- ask your server about how things are cooked and request items the way you want them. Eat more foods prepared with these methods: Steamed Poached Blackened Grilled Roasted Stewed Stir-fried

Ditch the Dough

Skip the refined white bread and butter -- it spoils your appetite, is nutritionally void and served with olive oil or butter. Don't even let your server put it on the table! Instead, order an appetizer right away and opt for the healthier choices: raw bar items (clams, shrimp, crab meat, etc) grilled chicken bites salad, broth based soups veggie platters with dip

Get Sauce Smart

Use condiments sparingly and order sauces, gravies, and dressings on the side. Limit or avoid menu items with these words in the description: Alfredo Beurre blanc Tempura Parmigiana Au gratin En croute Flaky/crusty Béchamel Béarnaise

When Enough is Enough

Ask for half of the meal to be wrapped up before it is served or ask for the food on your plate to be "doggie bagged" when you feel satisfied. It tastes just as good on the fifth bite as it will on the 25th bite! Order a dessert for the table and share. This will allow you to enjoy a sweet ending without overdoing it. Listen to your body -- it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it's full. The faster you eat, the more you eat. The silly thing that your mother told you -- like putting your fork down between bites or chewing your food 20 times before swallowing -- is actually good advice, so take heed!

Diane Henderiks is on a mission to teach America how to eat well. She is a personal chef, registered dietitian, cookbook author and regular "Good Morning America" contributor. She manages two companies: Diane's Daily Dish, her personal chef service; and Diane M. Henderiks, R.D. & Associates LLC, her nutrition consulting firm. She travels the country sharing her expertise and engaging audiences at the nation's top food and wine festivals and women's events. Diane is renowned for her expertise in creating wholesome cuisine that is both delicious and nutritious. www.dishwithdiane.com

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