Menu Tamer

Whether it’s date night or a night out with the girls, the temptation is always there to splurge on indulgences when you go out to eat. Mmm… French fries, chocolate cake, and so much more. You think, “Why not? I don’t eat out all the time.” However, sometimes those restaurant meals can cost you upwards of 1,500 calories per plate! Is it worth it?

But, let's be realistic. All of us want to be able to enjoy an evening out at a nice restaurant every once in a while and there's no need for this occasion to be fraught with guilt.

These 14 tips will help you enjoy a nice evening out and help you keep calories and fat in check:

  1. Avoid "All You Can Eat." Usually, you end up eating all you can and then some.
  2. Vegetarian does not necessarily mean low-fat. A lot of vegetarian restaurants serve dishes that are soaking in oil. They may boast that they use olive oil exclusively, but remember, all culinary oils contain 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.
  3. Sticking with a few favorite restaurants is a good way to get to know the chef, the servers and the way the food is prepared.
  4. Don't starve yourself in anticipation of a restaurant visit. It's much easier to stay in control if you've been eating sensibly throughout the day.
  5. Try to order first, so you won't be tempted or swayed by what everyone else is having.
  6. Always ask how dishes are prepared. Are they baked? Are they broiled? Are they prepared with butter or oil? Ask what's in the sauce; ask what's in the soup; ask what's in the dressing. Servers are becoming accustomed to fielding these types of questions, so don't worry about pestering them.
  7. Always ask for butter, gravy, sauces and salad dressings on the side. This permits you to control how much fat you eat. If it makes you feel better, lie to the server and say you have an allergy or that your doctor put you on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. A little white lie is better than a big fat one.
  8. Fill up on rolls and salad, but skip the butter. Freshly baked dinner rolls are great on their own and even better for dunking in soups and sauces.
  9. Learn to ask for milk instead of cream. A measly one-ounce container of half and half cream has approximately four grams of fat. How many cups of coffee do you have per day? A simple switch from cream to one percent or skim milk could mean substantial fat savings.
  10. Ask for salsa or dill with a baked potato instead of sour cream and butter.
  11. Order clear soups, broths or tomato-based soups instead of chowders or creamy soups (they most likely contain cream).
  12. If none of the entrees seem appropriate, consider ordering two appetizers. Steer clear of anything breaded or fried.
  13. A doggy bag is your waistline's best friend and an effective way to sidestep the ol' "paying for it so I'd better eat it" booby trap. Don't be shy about asking for one when you're served a plate of food that rivals the Matterhorn in height.
  14. If you absolutely can't resist Double Fudge Kahlua Cheesecake, at least split the dessert with your dinner pal and let her eat the lion's share. People usually order dessert out of habit, but often a few bites are enough to satisfy even the sweetest sweet tooth. Besides, you wouldn't want to wear Decadent Donut Delight long after the flavor has worn away. (Cappuccino with sweetener is a pretty rich-tasting alternative for dessert.)
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