THE BLOG
05/27/2014 04:47 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2014

10 Ways to Eat Out Healthfully

Do you desire quantity or quality? You'll find the more expensive restaurants have smaller portions. They offer quality ingredients, atmosphere, and service. It's a dining out experience. In the lesser-priced restaurants, you'll notice a larger quantity of food, with little or no atmosphere and service.

The highest-grossing restaurant chains in America are fast food restaurants. While fast food chains are making an effort to serve healthier selections and portions, they still have a very long way to go to make it a reality. Some market themselves as the healthy place to eat. Just be aware, at these establishments, the food is high in fat, salt, and yes... hidden sugar.

There are many reasons, and many ways, to eat out. When I work with clients who rarely eat out, I suggest they make it a special experience. Enjoy everything the restaurant offers, including dessert if desired. On the other hand, when I work with clients who eat out regularly, the advice is just the opposite. Eating out is routine, and choices must be made so the consequence of eating out is not excess weight.

So the choice is where to eat and what type of restaurant you desire. That choice can change from day to day or for any reason. But socializing is crucial to your well-being, and if eating out with others is your way of socializing, it is in your best interest to find a way to make it work for you. You can eat out, eat healthfully, and manage your weight at the same time, wherever you eat.

Always be aware of your portion sizes. You can ask your server for the exact serving size for an item on the menu. If they are not sure, they will ask the kitchen. Your serving is the restaurant's inventory; they know the amount of food on your plate!

Follow these "10 Ways to Eat Out Healthfully" and always enjoy eating out:

  1. Eat beforehand to control your appetite, not to suppress your appetite. Try to eat something small containing protein before you get to a restaurant. Often a cup of milk, soy milk, or almond milk will suffice. It has enough protein to hold you over and help you make a wise choice in the restaurant. It will also help you ignore the bread basket, or similar free items placed on your table.
  2. Check websites for menus or call ahead to see what will be served if you are attending a planned party. Plan what you want to eat before you get there. By preplanning your food, with items that you enjoy and look forward to, you will not be swayed by other's choices that may be calorie laden.
  3. Suggest a restaurant that you are familiar with. By simply suggesting a restaurant you enjoy and are comfortable with, you are now in command of what you will choose and how you will eat.
  4. Be careful of the breadbasket, Chinese noodles, nacho chips, or any food put on your table at no extra cost to you. You'll pay a high cost in the calories consumed.
  5. Order a big glass of water and make sure you drink it. Continually ask for refills. If your dinner guests are drinking an alcoholic beverage, and you choose not to, ask for your water to be poured into a wine glass.
  6. Go easy on alcoholic beverages; they contain a high amount of empty calories. Alcohol can change your mood while it lowers your resistance to temptation, causing you to over eat. If you do choose an alcoholic beverage, always drink a glass of water first. Quench your thirst with the water, than enjoy the taste of the drink.
  7. When you are at a social gathering and food is abundant, remember to socialize. Less eating gets done when more socializing takes place.
  8. Avoid ordering foods that are described on the menu with the following words: breaded, béarnaise, au gratin, parmesan, cream, hollandaise, crispy, fried, flaky, or escalloped. These types of food preparation include a high fat content, and many added unnecessary calories.
  9. Order foods described with these words: roasted, grilled, broiled, poached, stir-fried, or steamed. Stick to sauces that are stock-based or red. Food prepared this way is lower in calories and an all around healthier choice.
  10. Choose "a-la-carte" items, don't be afraid to ask for substitutions, and avoid all-you-can-eat menus. Everything you eat matters, so choose wisely.

One last food for thought... if you choose a high-calorie meal in a restaurant, leave the uneaten portion there and do not take the rest home for another day. If you enjoy it while you are out, that's enough. There is no need to eat it again, regardless of how much you paid for it. You have already gotten your money's worth by enjoying it that one time.

Follow these tips and you'll continually enjoy dining out. I'll see you in the restaurants.