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Valentine's Day (or ANY day) Dining Out

Feb 11, 2013

Let's face it...we've all wondered at some point in time 'How am I supposed to be able to eat healthy and still go out to eat?" Right? Well, I thought this week would be just as goog as any to address this very subject since a lot of you will be dining out for Valentine's Day with your loved ones. These tips, however, transcend far beyond your typical consumer-driven dining out holidays. The truth is that you CAN go out to eat, enjoy yourself, and not feel like you're on a "diet" and not end up feeling guilty for ordering something you know you shouldn't have just because you didn't know what to order.

Know before you go! When you're planning to eat out, check online to see if you can take a look at the menu ahead of time. Most restaurants, even the privately-owned ones these days have their menus readily accessible before you even walk through the door. Being able to take a look and choose what you'll order ahead of time will help put you at ease in knowing that there is something there that you'll be able to eat. You can always call ahead and let them know if you have any particular concerns regarding ingredients and most places are willing to accomodate.

Develop table-side strategies. Always pass on the bread basket. There's nothing nutritionally beneficial about what's in that basket--nothing but empty carbohydrate calories designed to make you even more hungry for the remainder of your meal. The same should hold true for alcohol as well, as this will only contribute to you eating more than you intended in the beginning...not to mention those useless liquid calories. When ordering your entree, stick with simply grilled proteins like fish, chicken and lean steak options. Ask for those to be served with fresh steamed or grilled vegetables with no added sauces. When going through these motions, always be nice to the server--this will ensure that they'll be more likely to make sure you get things made the way you wanted.

Ask the right questions. Never make assumptions about how the food is cooked or what ingredients are in it. Remember, you are the customer and you are there for them to serve you and your needs. It's ultimately their job to make sure you get what you're paying for. Try these: "Is anything breaded or crusted and fried," "Can you see what type of cooking oil the chef uses," or "Is your beef grass-fed?" If they are really working for your best interest (as they should), they'll see to it to get these questions answered for you.

Follow good eating guidelines. Don't skimp on your protein. Choose broiled, baked, or grilled, just make sure they are not floured and deep fried--or even dusted and pan-fried. If you're dying for pasta, a lot of Italian restaurants now have a better, gluten-free option. The best bet, though, is if they'll serve your pasta sauce over spaghetti squash instead. With mexican food, choose meat, salsa and guacamole. Skip on the chips, shells, and wraps and eat lots of fresh veggies. Asian cuisine can offer some great options like sashimi sushi or hibachi grilled meats and veggies. Try to avoid soy sauce, however.

When all else seems too complicated, aim for a nice big salad with grilled chicken or shrimp and ask for olive oil and balsamic vinegar to be served alongside of your salad. I know this isn't the most exciting option, but you have to keep your best interest at the top of your priority list. You can, though, eat out and not have to succomb to the salad du jour. Just practice the tips mentioned above and you'll be one step ahead the next time you eat out.

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