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Restaurant Dining 101

People ask me all the time what to order at a restaurant and still maintain a healthy diet. If you are trying to lose weight, restaurants can be huge saboteurs. There is no way to know how many calories each menu item has. If your lifestyle requires you to dine out, (and frankly, whose doesn’t these days?), then here are some suggestions that will not throw off your diet.

First and foremost, limit the amount of times during the week that you frequent restaurants. It is much better for you to be in control of your menu and prepare food at home. You know what you are getting. Prepare your own menus Monday through Friday then go out on the weekends and allow yourself treat meals.

If you have to attend a lot of dinners for work during the week, be smart about it and make low calorie choices. Menu items that you think are good for you can actually be very fattening. A salad might seem like a healthy choice but can be loaded with calories. Creamy dressing, barbeque sauce, cheese, corn, and croutons are not a dieter’s friend.

Stay away from bread or chips before a meal or move them to the other side of the table. Instead ask for a glass of ice water with lemon and drink the whole glass to fill you while waiting for your entrée. Drinking a full glass of water and waiting a few minutes will allow the body to signal its full. The lemon will help abate hunger.

As Americans, we are used to being served all of the bad foods up front like bread and wine. I always tell clients to eat “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in that order on their plate. Classify foods on the plate in one of those categories and fill up accordingly. For example, “the Good” are vegetables and proteins and “the Bad” are starches like rice, potatoes or breads. “The Ugly” is obviously dessert and alcohol. The point is to fill up on the good so you won’t stuff yourself with poor choices.

Here are some practical lighter menu options I recommend:


If dining at a Mexican restaurant, order fajitas and eat the filling first-the veggies and meat-then when almost full, allow yourself one tortilla filled with the veggies and meat, so you don’t feel deprived.


Instead of ordering a hamburger, request leaner meat like turkey and hold the bun. Always opt for a side salad instead of fries, and order balsamic dressing instead of a creamy dressing.


If craving Asian fare, request steamed dishes or a vegetable and protein dish like broccoli and chicken. Make sure and ask your server if the meal is fried and if so, ask if it can be steamed. Basically try to remove all breads and fried foods from your meals.


Instead of dessert, eat fresh fruit. Fruit will balance sugar levels and is your best defense against insulin highs and lows.


NEVER order mixed drinks. They are loaded with empty calories. If you are going to drink alcohol then vodka with club soda or a clear tequila over ice is a much better choice.

Regardless of what type restaurant you are dining at, stop halfway through dinner and drink another glass of water. This pause will allow the body to release Leptin, a chemical that tells the body that its full.

Dinners are very social and fun but if you use these few simple tricks, they can be guilt-free too!