Diet and dine out - 10 surefire strategies

Nutrition team

We are eating more and more meals outside the home. While this cuts down on the hours spent slaving over the stove, it opens us up to other ways to get our fingers burnt. With the holiday season fast approaching, we will be dining out at restaurants or with friends and family even more than usual, so how can we limit the dining out damage?

When we eat out we expose ourselves to many waist-expanding risks – the temptation to choose something high in fat and calories is placed well within our grasp. Even if we do opt for the healthier choices, we have little control over how it’s cooked or how much is served. It can be a veritable minefield of diet traps. It’s time to dig into our Top 10 strategies for Dining Out - your hips will thank you later.

1. Develop a positive attitude!
Dining out doesn’t mean pigging out. Just because you’re eating out doesn’t mean you have to blow your diet. Build confidence to believe you can eat a healthy meal in restaurants. Gradually change what you order and where you eat.

2. Decide when you eat out... or not!
Just how often are you eating out? If you’re heading out to the third party of the week, can you decide to skip the meal and go to the reception only? If you do eat out frequently, keep extras like desserts and alcoholic drinks to a minimum.

3. Know your restaurants!
If you can, choose restaurants that offer healthy options and become familiar with the healthy alternatives.

4. Set a game plan!
On your way to the restaurant, firmly decide that you WILL eat a healthy meal. Plan your order - or at least what you might have - before you cross the threshold.

5. Become a fat sleuth!
Focus on fats. Watch out for high-fat ingredients: butter, cream, sour cream. Be on alert for high-fat foods: cheese, avocado, processed meats. Steer clear of high-fat preparation methods (i.e. frying of any kind).

6. Let your meal plan be your guide!
Keep a miniaturised version of your food plan with you. Choose foods with your meal plan in mind. Try to fulfill each food group with menu items or substitute foods to balance your meal.

7. Practice portion control!
The best way to not eat too much is to order less. Order with your stomach in mind, not your eyes. You need to outsmart the menu to get the right amount of food for you.

8. Be creative with the menu!
Take advantage of healthy starters, soups and salads or split menu items with your dining partner. Order one or two fewer dishes than the number of people at the table and eat family style.

9. Get foods made to order!
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, even at a fast food restaurant. Make sure your requests are practical. Ask for salad instead of chips on the side; substitute mustard for mayonnaise on a sandwich; enjoy a sandwich on wholegrain bread rather than on a croissant; serve salad dressing on the side. Be reasonable... and polite.

10. Know when enough is enough!
Many of us grew up aspiring to become members of the Clean Plate Club. Now you need to earn membership in the “Leave a Few Bites on Your Plate Club.” Don’t order too much, order creatively and push your plate away when you meet your calorie needs.

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