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How to eat healthy when you eat out all the time

18 tips and tricks to keeping your diet on track, even when you’re out.

As someone who frequents restaurants most nights of the week, mastering the art of keeping a healthy dinner-time routine is something that requires a smart attitude and little side of willpower. Armed with research, it’s easy to maintain your health goals and keep your calories, fats and sugars to your recommended daily intake and still leave the restaurant feeling satisfied.

Read on to find out 18 tricks for healthy eating when you’re out and about:

  • Book the restaurant yourself.

If you put your hand up to be the one to make dinner arrangements, you’ve got a slight advantage in opting for something that you know will have healthy options from the get-go.

  • Don’t skip lunch.

You know you’re going to a restaurant for dinner so make it a priority to keep your lunch routine. Skipping lunch will only leave you starving by the time you get to dinner and chances are you’ll over-order.

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  • Be assertive and ask for changes.
    It’s okay to ask for changes to your meal. If you’re ordering a salad, ask for the dressing on the side. Having steak and fries? Switch the fries for salad or vegetables. Does it come fried? Ask for it to be grilled instead. Most restaurants are happy to oblige. Keeping customers satisfied is of the utmost importance!
  • Double or triple the veggie intake.
    Doubling up (or tripling up) on your salad and vegetable intake will keep you trim around the waistline and help you stay fuller for longer. By filling up on nutritious vegetables, you’re less likely to reach for those leftover fries at the end of the meal to fill up. Simply ask for more salad or vegetables and offer to pay more.
  • Make an entrĂ©e a main.
    Start by looking at the “healthy, lite and low-fat” options in the entrée section. If there’s something that takes your fancy ask to have it brought out as a main portion.
  • Split the entrĂ©e.

If you’re committed to eating a main and you really want a starter too, ask your friends to split something with you.

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  • As a rule of thumb, say no to dessert.
    Unless there’s a fruit plate. But if you love your desserts, split one with someone. One or two spoonfuls should be enough to curb your cravings.
  • Order an entrĂ©e and a side as your main.
    Quite often the entrée or starter section will have vegetable or seafood-based options. Aim for one of these and pair it with a side salad or bowl of vegetables.
  • When it comes to salads...
    Just because it’s called a salad doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Avoid salads that are creamy or have rich additionals. Anything packed with heavy cheeses or meats are where you can go wrong. If you must have the caesar salad, ask for the dressing on the side and try not to eat all the bacon bits and fried croutons. What you want to be looking for are the salad options packed with raw vegetables, fruits and grains like quinoa.
  • Game-changer: The fork dip.
    If you need a little dressing, before each mouthful simply dip your fork into the dressing and then go for your salad. It’s a small amount and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much flavour is added to each mouthful. By the end you’ll have so much dressing left over, saving you a bunch of calories without feeling unsatisfied.
  • Suss out the menu before you go.
    Reading over the menu before you dine can give you added information, such as details of the suppliers and producers used. It’ll also give you an indication of whether or not there are options that you can eat. If you realise the restaurant doesn’t offer the healthiest of options, book somewhere else.
  • Look out for certain words on the menu.
    If something has the word “crumbed”, “breaded”, “creamy”, “crispy”, “sauced” or “stuffed”, it’s a fair assumption that it will be loaded with unnecessary calories and fats.
  • Say no to the bread basket.
    This is an easy one. It’s quite common for a restaurant to offer you bread (accompanied by oil or butter) to begin your meal. Politely decline so you aren’t tempted. This is where you’ll need to use your willpower.
  • Exercise your willpower with portion control.
    Studies have shown that eating only three quarters of your meal can result in eating 300 calories less. This is the time to exercise your willpower and practice portion control.
  • Order lean protein.
    Chicken, pork tenderloin, lean steak or steamed or grilled fish with salad are easy go-tos when ordering at a restaurant. Just make sure it’s not fried. Ask for any accompanying sauces on the side.

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  • Avoid drinks packed with sugar.
    Maybe you’re on a fancy date or having a girls night out, but whatever the case, skip any fancy drinks that are packed with sugar. Cocktails usually contain a huge hit of sugar and by the time you’ve had two or three, you’re likely to have exceeded your daily sugar intake. If you must drink something alcoholic, opt for a glass of red wine, light beer or a clear spirit with soda.
  • Drink up.
    The more water you drink throughout the meal, the more likely you are to feel full before you’re finished. It’s also generally a good idea to keep hydrated, especially if you’re drinking.
  • And finally, keep your health goals front of mind. Putting a simple thought into your head before you sit down to dinner will help you exercise your willpower just that little bit more.

Got any tips of your own to add? Let us know in the comments.

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Doone Roisin

Doone Roisin is the social media butterfly and a Contributing Fashion Editor at finder.com.au. She's an online shopping enthusiast ready to show you what to buy and how to wear it, the best sales around town and insider tips to make note of.

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