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There’s no denying that eating out is as much about entertainment as it is about the food you’re eating. It’s unrealistic to expect it to never happen, even for the strictest dieters. If you find yourself at a restaurant that doesn’t have a lot of necessarily “healthy” options, there are a few ways you can cut back while still being able to have an enjoyable, guiltless meal.

1)  Avoid liquid calories

This is generally a good rule of thumb for any occasion. Soft drinks and other types of sugar beverages not only add a lot to your check, they add a lot to your waistline. One glass of cola can harbor 250+ calories. Not to mention the free refills. If you do order a drink with your meal, try to make it diet or ask for other low-cal options. When in doubt, water will always be your friend.

2)  Order salad, with dressing on the side

Salads are a healthy way to fill your stomach (minus the croutons), but be careful with the creamy dressings. Ask for the dressing in a separate cup, and only dip each bite individually.  That way, you’re not sacrificing flavor, just fats and calories.

3)  Order the “bottomless” nothing

Many places offer endless serving of chips and salsa, popcorn, salted peanuts, breads, etc. Even worse, many times they’re offered for free! While a few chips probably won’t kill you, most people fail to realize just how many calories are in a single serving. A slice of sandwich bread contains about 100. A small bag of chips can range from 120-200, depending on the type. Try to keep these numbers in perspective.

4)  Don’t order the creamy or crispy entrees

Alfredo sauces, creamy marinara, etc. are diet murderers. Saturated in oils and fats, the meals associated with these bad boys can contains as much as 3,000 calories! That’s more than the average daily max. Crispy alternatives can be as equally bad, as crispy usually means deep-fried. Need we say more?

5)  Don’t be afraid to ask questions

No one wants to be a difficult customer, but asking a waiter the portion size is something that they should be comfortable with. A side of mashed potatoes might sound reasonable, but you don’t need to overload yourself with too many fatty starches. If ordering pasta, ask if they have whole-wheat options. Or ask what kind of low-calories meals they have on the menu. Many people feel embarrassed asking questions, but knowing the menu is part of a server’s job.

6)  Skip the dessert menu

Unless it’s a special occasion, dessert should be skipped and had at home (if necessary). Small pieces of dark chocolate or some sorbet can satisfy that after-dinner sugar fix. But if you must order one onsite, check the menu for some fruit-heavy options. Avoid the combo triple-fudge with ice cream options. You’ll almost always be grateful when you do.
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