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Don't Let Restaurant Meals Make You Fat

Florida lifestyle, decorating, and retirement are topics covered by Virginia, who shares her own experiences.

Gravy and more gravy makes the calories add up. Lots of potatoes, a good-sized biscuit, deep-fried vegetables (okra), and a soda, is a good way to pack on the pounds.

Gravy and more gravy makes the calories add up. Lots of potatoes, a good-sized biscuit, deep-fried vegetables (okra), and a soda, is a good way to pack on the pounds.

Changing the Way You Eat in Restaurants

Don't wait for New Year's to resolve to lose weight. You can make changes at any time in the way you eat. We're going to focus on restaurant dining here, and the small changes that help your plans for slimming down.

Restaurants want their customers to feel they had ample food, so usually, it's larger servings than we really need. There are a number of ways you can eat well without having a total pig-out. Check out the ideas below and start applying them for dining out experiences that won't load on the pounds.

Sigh, fried food, lots of bread, lots of fried meat does not make a healthy meal.

Sigh, fried food, lots of bread, lots of fried meat does not make a healthy meal.

I Want to Change My Eating Out Habits, But It Isn't Easy

This year, I didn't make the usual sure-to-fail resolution to lose weight. It just doesn't seem like something I follow through on and then I feel like a failure.

My new approach is to take my cues from my slim friends. Twice a month, after our writing group meeting we go to lunch at the Grille. The foods on the menu are similar to what you could order at Applebee's or Chili's.

Having grown up eating hearty farm fare, my tendency is to order a heaping plate of pasta with a heavy sauce over it or a filling sandwich like a Reuben loaded with cheese and dripping with sauce. I know those aren't the best choices, but the menu pictures look so enticing and I'm having a good time with friends, so I treat myself.

Learning to Eat Like My Slim Friends

Looking around at what my slender friend's order shows me clearly why they are trim and I am plump. Instead of drinking bottomless glasses of Coke, they are having tea or water with lemon. Last year, I gave up the colas and now I order water with lemon when I'm in a restaurant.

That was just a start. Now I need to follow their example with the foods I order. Instead of calorie-laden menu items, I'll order a salad with the dressing on the side. Then I can dip my fork into the dressing for each bite or drizzle it on sparingly.

If I'm not in the mood for a salad, I can order an appetizer and make a meal of that. Usually, that's slightly smaller than a lunch serving from the menu. Another option is to order the senior portion or from the child's menu for a smaller serving.

Sometimes a friend orders a meal and saves half to take home. Two meals for the price of one so it is half the calories as well. Smart thinking.

What do you think of my strategy?

A salad that feels luxurious and fills you up without lots of calories. Shrimp, a small amount of feta cheese, and lots of vegetables. Wonderful.

A salad that feels luxurious and fills you up without lots of calories. Shrimp, a small amount of feta cheese, and lots of vegetables. Wonderful.

A glass of white wine would have been a better choice than this sugary margarita. If it's lunch time, I usually opt now for water with a lemon wedge. It's the evening meal that tempts me to order a fancier beverage.

A glass of white wine would have been a better choice than this sugary margarita. If it's lunch time, I usually opt now for water with a lemon wedge. It's the evening meal that tempts me to order a fancier beverage.

In New England in the summer, it's hard to resist a bowl of creamy clam chowder, followed by fried clams or fried haddock. Ask if they have broiled seafood on the menu. You can also split some fried seafood with a friend to minimize the damage.

In New England in the summer, it's hard to resist a bowl of creamy clam chowder, followed by fried clams or fried haddock. Ask if they have broiled seafood on the menu. You can also split some fried seafood with a friend to minimize the damage.

Tips to Eating Healthier When Dining Out

  • Scan the menu for sections called the lighter side or items marked as healthy choices.
  • Consider having an appetizer instead of a full meal.
  • Choose foods that aren't covered in sauces or cheeses.
  • Have your salad dressing on the side to apply sparingly.
  • Drink water instead of sodas.
  • Look for white meat such as chicken or fish. Avoid higher-fat meats like red meat or bacon.
  • Get broiled or baked foods rather than fried ones.
  • Skip the add-ons like an appetizer or dessert.
  • Put the bread basket out of convenient reach or ask the waiter to remove it.
  • Set aside half of your meal to take home for tomorrow's lunch.
It's hard to resist, so it's better if I don't even look at the yummy pictures on the dessert menu. Once in awhile, I'll skip the sandwich and just have dessert for my lunch. If I've built it up in my mind it sometimes disappoints me.

It's hard to resist, so it's better if I don't even look at the yummy pictures on the dessert menu. Once in awhile, I'll skip the sandwich and just have dessert for my lunch. If I've built it up in my mind it sometimes disappoints me.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I resist the basket of bread that is served at restaurants?

Answer: What works best for me is to ask them not to bring the bread. This only works if the others at the table are willing to pass up the bread too. If the bread is at the table, try taking a small piece and skip the butter and any spread if you can. Also, place the basket at the far side of the table where it isn't easy for you to reach.

Question: Which meats are generally better for you when you eat in a restaurant?

Answer: Fish is lower in calories, and white meat like chicken is good choices. Avoid fried meats or ones with sauces which can make even fish or chicken a poor choice when eating in a restaurant.

© 2018 Virginia Allain

Tell Me Your Tips for Eating Lightly in Restaurants

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on January 06, 2018:

Great advice. I rarely eat in restaurants for that very reason. I always drink water (or wine!!) when eating out so the fizzy drinks don't bother me. After that - well I do try - but even with a salad it's often the dressings that bump up the calories. We need a chain of lean eating restaurants with delicious, nutritious low cal food.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on January 05, 2018:

Nice article especially after all the Christmas and New year lunch and dinners at a restaurant. Being a vegetarian helps to avoid eating rich greasy foods, but for me its the sweets and chocolates I normally do not buy or eat throughout the year. That is my downfall during the December month.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 05, 2018:

These are great tips. We were out last New Year for a meal which had 14 courses, all very tempting but at the end, we just couldn't anymore go on. We left and took a walk. Set menus are not good for Seniors as do buffets. Avoid hotel breakfast buffets when on a holiday.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 04, 2018:

I do stay away from all you can eat! That is always a bad idea. I just don't eat out very often unless it is a picnic (which I love and do as often as I can) so I really don't have a problem with this but I know many who do. I do like your idea of just getting appetizer and maybe a salad if very hungry. Sounds like a winner.

Good luck!