8 Tips for Picking Healthy Meals at Restaurants

Summer will be here before you realize it, which means it’s almost time to slip into your favorite swimsuit and hit the beach. But what if you’re not quite ready to show off your body? If you’ve had trouble sticking to a diet over the winter, you’re definitely not alone.

This is particularly difficult when you dine out regularly. Sure, it’s fun catching up with friends over dinner and drinks, but the calories can seriously add up. In fact, you may not even think healthy restaurant meals even exist. The good news is you’ve still got time to get yourself back on track before bikini season officially starts! Whip your diet into shape this spring with the following tips for choosing healthy restaurant meals (yes, it is possible).

1. Check the Menu Before Dining

Do you have reservations at your favorite restaurant? Everything they serve is probably delicious, but it’s a good idea to have a game plan before you go out. Many restaurants have their menus online, so do a quick check prior to dinner. Some restaurants even have calorie counts and other nutritional info listed on their websites. If you’re following a particular eating plan or just want to make sure you stay below a specific calorie amount, scanning the menu before dinner is an easy way to plan ahead and make sure you find yourself selecting a healthy restaurant meal.

2. Choose Your Drink Wisely

Tropical cocktails may not seem like a big deal, but they’re almost always made with sugary mixes that bump up your calorie count. If you want to enjoy alcohol with your meal, there are some better options calorie-wise than piña coladas and margaritas. A glass of wine, vodka and seltzer, or a light beer are all lower-calorie options that should still satisfy you. If you’re not drinking, you can’t go wrong with plain old water with lemon or unsweetened iced tea.

3. Skip the Bread Basket

One of the easiest ways to max out your calories at a restaurant is by polishing off everything in the bread basket. While buttered rolls are definitely yummy, if you’re trying to diet, you might want to skip the bread altogether. If you don’t think you’ll have the willpower to do that with bread on the table, tell the server not to bring any out as soon as you’re seated.

4. Start with a Salad

Ordering a salad as an appetizer course may make it so you’re not quite as hungry once your server serves your main course and thus you’ll consume fewer calories. Of course, not all salads are created equal. To make sure you’re selecting the healthiest possible salad, skip creamy dressings and high-calorie toppings like bacon bits and fried noodles.

Raw veggies, fruits, and nuts are all great salad toppers because they have health benefits and don’t break the calorie bank. As far as dressing goes, you can’t go wrong with a little olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Ask for the dressing on the side so you can control how much you use.

5. Avoid Certain Words on the Menu

The following words are dead giveaways that a dish is going to be a calorie bomb: fried, breaded, battered, creamy, buttery, and smothered. You’re better off selecting an entrée that is steamed, baked, sautéed, braised, or poached. Choosing a healthier cooking option is an easy way to cut down on calories.

6. Order Vegetables on the Side

Let’s be real: sometimes, the side dishes are the best part of a meal. But to ensure you wind up with healthy restaurant meals, opt for vegetables for all your sides. Does your chicken come with spinach and french fries? See if you can get two portions of spinach or another portion of steamed veggies in place of the fried potatoes.

7. Ask for Half of Your Meal to Go

Depending on which restaurant you visit, the portions may be huge. While it’s easy to say you’ll only eat half, once you actually start eating, you may find it harder than you thought to stop yourself. So, when placing your order, ask your waiter if he or she can give you a container when the food comes out. That way you can put half of your meal away before digging in.

8. Share Dessert

There’s no reason why you have to deny yourself dessert—just be smart about what you order. One way to keep your calorie count down at a restaurant is to split one dessert with your entire party. A piece of chocolate cake split five ways is fewer calories than if you had an entire slice yourself.

Another Way to Prep for Bikini Season

Sometimes, changing up your diet won’t necessarily lead to the kind of results you’re hoping to achieve. For an effective and more permanent solution, consider SculpSure®, the first FDA-cleared, noninvasive laser treatment that can permanently reduce unwanted fat cells from a variety of areas including your tummy, love handles, and under your chin.

Now you’re ready to pick healthy restaurant meals, right in time to get your body summer-ready—so go forth and enjoy your next night out with confidence!

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