4 Smart Dining Out Strategies

Order wisely, and you can put together a meal that’s long on flavor and short on calories.

Here are four rules to stick by when you open your menu:

Dining Out the Healthy Way If you're dining out with friends who share your concern about overdoing it, agree to order and share meals.

1. Be colorful
Meat and creamy sauces are usually beige, right? Where do most dishes get their brightest colors? From vegetables and fruit, of course. Choose the most colorful dishes on the menu and chances are you’ll order the healthiest, least-calorie dense selections. Spicy red salsas, deep purple beets, green salads, yellow corn, and bright orange or yellow sweet peppers turn your plate into a rainbow of colors. As long as vegetables arrive unadorned with lots of added fat, they’re free on ChangeOne. Help yourself. And there’s another reason for filling your plate with color. Many of the substances that provide fruits and vegetables with their colors are antioxidants — potent disease-fighters that have been shown to lower heart disease and cancer risk.

2. Order appetizers and sides Another favorite dieting strategy: Forgo the entree section of the menu and order only from the appetizers and side dishes. With today’s oversized portions, an appetizer or side often makes the perfect meal by itself. Skip things like the fried calamari, of course, and make sure your choices include at least two servings of vegetables.

3. Dip into the sauce
Ordering salad dressing on the side and drizzling it on sparingly is one of the oldest tricks in any dieter’s handbook, of course. Remember that you can order other sauces on the side, too, from gravy to guacamole. Give yourself no more than a tablespoon. Put your fork to good use. Instead of pouring on the sauce or salad dressing, dip in just the tips of your fork, then spear a bite-sized portion. You’ll make a little bit of a good thing go a long way.

4. Create your own smorgasbord
If you’re dining out with friends who share your concern about overdoing it, agree to order and share entrees. If there are four of you, order two or three main dishes. You’ll get a chance to sample a wider variety of items on the menu and keep portions down to size. Be careful, though: Some people offered a lot to choose from end up eating a lot more. Decide in advance to sample only two or three forkfuls of each dish. With lots of dishes on the table, it’s especially important to be aware of hunger and satiety signals. Sit back from time to time, take a deep breath, think about whether you’ve had enough — and if you have, put your fork down, raise a glass of water, and spend the rest of the time enjoying conversation.

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