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How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants

Simple Tips to Help You Keep Your Waistline In While Dining Out

Think you can't eat out at restaurants if you're on a weight loss program? Or if you do, you'll be limited to a small garden salad...with dressing on the side? Think again.

Dining out at restaurants and fast-food establishments is fine if you're trying to shed a few extra pounds. You can enjoy eating out with family and friends and still savor many of your favorite dishes — and yes, this can even include dessert! The key is to be on the "portion patrol" and to make wise menu choices.

Policing Your Portions

"The most important factor when dining out is portion size," said Lisa Talamini, Jenny Craig's Chief Nutritionist. "The size of an average restaurant entrée has doubled in the past 25 years, so you'll want to be sure to modify your choices accordingly."

Jenny Craig makes it easy to create a correctly portioned meal. The meat in your meal, for example, should be approximately three ounces — the size of a deck of cards. Your vegetables should take up the same space as a light bulb, and your potatoes or pasta should be the size of a small fist. Anything more should be taken home as leftovers — which could actually help you turn one meal into two, making the most out of your meal.

Here are three other ways to avoid committing a "portion crime":

  • Share an entrée with a friend.
  • Choose a low-fat appetizer and side salad instead of an entrée.
  • For dessert, order one serving for everyone to share, limiting your sugar intake to just a few small bites.
  • Making The Most Of Your Menu

    "Food selection is important as well," added Talamini. "If you choose a salad with low-fat dressing or fresh vegetables without butter, you can eat virtually as much as you want."

    She also suggests reading menus carefully to select items that are high in flavor, but low in calories and fat. Pick entrées and vegetables that are broiled, baked or grilled, and pass on anything labeled Alfredo, breaded, cheesy or creamy to help you stay on your meal plan.

    Words like jumbo, super-sized, deluxe and triple-decker should also set off alarms in your head. Menu items with these descriptions will most likely be two or three times larger than the proper portion size.

    The good news is, by using visual food cues to create properly portioned meals and paying attention to the wording of menu items, you can continue to lose weight while dining out with family and friends.