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How To Eat Out When You’re On A Diet

Navigating the dining scene can feel like a treacherous journey for those of us 40 and over, especially when we’re committed to maintaining a healthy diet. The good news? Enjoying a meal out doesn’t have to mean sidelining your nutritional goals. With a bit of foresight and strategic planning, you can still enjoy the social and culinary pleasures of dining out without compromising on health. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone, catching up with friends, or simply taking a night off from kitchen duties, here’s your guide to dining out smartly and healthily.

1. Preview the Menu

Most restaurants now offer their menus online, providing the perfect opportunity to plan your meal ahead of time. Look for dishes that align with your dietary goals, focusing on grilled, baked, or steamed options rather than those that are fried or smothered in heavy sauces. Deciding what you’ll order in advance can help you stay on track and avoid impulsive choices spurred by hunger or temptation.

2. Don’t Arrive Starving

One of the biggest mistakes is arriving at a restaurant so hungry that everything on the menu looks appetizing. Have a small, healthy snack before heading out—a protein shake, handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, or a yogurt can curb your appetite and give you the patience to make a thoughtful choice.

3. Stay Hydrated

Begin your meal with a glass of water, and keep sipping throughout. Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger, leading us to eat more than we need. Staying hydrated can also slow down your eating pace, making the meal more enjoyable and giving your stomach time to signal when it’s full. If you miss the fizz of pop having a bubbly, or lower calorie carbonated beverage will help you get through.

4. Mind the Bread Basket

It’s all too easy to fill up on bread before the main course even arrives. If the bread basket is too tempting, don’t hesitate to ask the server to take it away. Alternatively, you can allow yourself one piece and then put the basket out of reach. Portion control will keep you satisfied and be a great way to learn how to enjoy the foods you miss in moderation.

5. Opt for Salads and Vegetables

Starting with a salad (dressing on the side) can help fill you up with fiber and nutrients, making you less likely to overindulge in your main course. When choosing side dishes, go for steamed vegetables or a side salad instead of fries or mashed potatoes.

6. Choose Your Main Wisely

Look for dishes that center around lean proteins and vegetables. Fish, chicken, and plant-based options can be excellent choices, especially when they’re prepared in a simple and healthy manner. Don’t shy away from asking for modifications—restaurants are typically happy to accommodate requests like dressing on the side or swapping out a side dish.

7. Be Strategic About Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks can add a significant number of calories to your meal and might even lower your inhibitions around food. Opt for a glass of wine, a light beer, or a simple mixed drink with a low-calorie mixer, and limit yourself to one or two drinks. Alternating with water can also help you stay hydrated and keep your calorie intake in check.

8. Share Desserts

If dessert is non-negotiable, consider sharing with your dining companions. This allows you to enjoy a taste of something sweet without overdoing it. Fruit-based desserts or sorbet are lighter options that can satisfy your sweet tooth without the heavy load of calories and sugar.

9. Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and don’t feel obligated to clean your plate. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a box to take leftovers home, extending the enjoyment of your meal to another day.

10. Enjoy the Experience

Remember, dining out is as much about the experience and the company as it is about the food. Focus on the conversation, the atmosphere, and the joy of not having to cook or clean up. By following these tips, you can ensure that dining out enriches your life without derailing your diet.

Navigating the restaurant menu while sticking to your health goals can be a seamless part of your dining experience, especially as we age. Armed with these strategies, you can enjoy the social and culinary aspects of dining out without compromise, proving that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and enjoying life’s pleasures can indeed go hand in hand.

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