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Divine Dining

Everybody loves going out to eat at least once in a while, especially when celebrating a special occasion or a job well done. But if you’re trying to eat healthier and improve your overall well being, heading out for dinner is often an easy way to end up backsliding on all that hard work.

It’s true that many restaurants—from fast food to fine dining spots—are making an effort to offer healthier fare. But beware! Even with these options available, there are a number of other pitfalls that may lay waste to your healthy intentions. You can easily sidestep these most of these with a little advance planning and by keeping a couple of tips in mind during your next culinary adventure.

Decide. Make a commitment to fully enjoy any dining out experience. Decide right now that you can have as much fun and be just as satisfied as anyone else while also staying true to your decision to eat healthily.

Play detective. Most restaurants share their menus online. Take advantage of this and check out the menu in advance. You can then place your order on the spot and won’t feel so tempted by any of the less-than-healthy dishes they offer. You don’t have to mention your sleuthing activities to anyone else, just take a moment to look over the menu before you get there then order the dish you have already chosen.

Snack before the fact. If you’re worried about the unlimited fresh bread or biscuits many restaurants serve to guests before the meal, have a healthy snack before heading out. Slice up some carrots and bell peppers or have a banana to stave off any temptation to overindulge in the buttery bread traps. You’ll still feel hungry enough to savor your dinner while staying true to your healthy eating plan.

Water for the win. Healthy eating doesn’t usually include alcoholic beverages. Water safely retains the title of healthiest drink ever. But if you do want to have a drink that includes alcohol, wait until the food comes before ordering it and stick to one. Ask the server to bring you a tall glass of water and to keep it full. This way you can enjoy an adult beverage with your companions without falling off a figurative nutritional cliff (or easily running up the bill).

Coffee wraps it up. If anyone at your table orders dessert, have a hot cappuccino without the sugar. It’ll keep you in the loop while the others finish up and even give you a little boost for some after dinner dancing or other fun.

Just because you’re committed to living healthily doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy going out to eat. A little planning and detective work will usually allow you to stay on track—even when dining at your favorite restaurant.

Learn the Lingo

A great way to maintain healthy eating habits while dining out is to learn key words and phrases that clue you in on the healthiness of a given dish. For example, words like smothered, crispy, dipped, and creamy probably indicate the dish in question isn’t likely to meet the criteria for healthy eating.

On the other hand, words like grilled, steamed, seared, broiled, roasted, and baked in a menu description may indicate healthier choices. Ask your server to find out for sure. Some people feel shy about asking questions regarding a possible menu choice, but it’s the only way to really know. And most people working in the food service industry have heard more questions than you can imagine about the various menu items offered. As long as you’re polite (and you obviously will be), you shouldn’t encounter any pushback. If you still feel odd about asking in person, call the restaurant before you go.

Here’s a little secret—by talking to someone committed to providing great service and an exemplary dining experience, you may learn that they have no problem creating off-the-menu dishes for their guests. You’ll then have the confidence and knowledge to order beautifully prepared, delicious dishes that align perfectly with your healthy eating habits. Decide to level up your commitment to great nutrition the next time you dine out in search of a culinary adventure.

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