Published: Aug 31, 2012 8:42 AM EDT
Updated: Sep 03, 2012 3:38 PM EDT

Eating healthy while eating out is all about one word: preparation. Avoid “all-you-can-eat” places. More diets go here to die than any other type of restaurant. Don’t decide to eat out on the spur of the moment, make plans and account for it during the rest of the day’s menu planning.

Sometimes, the battle is lost before we even open the door. All it takes is a few minutes. Go to the restaurant's website to find a menu and look it over. My girlfriend ALWAYS seems to find a coupon for a free beverage or appetizer which is always nice! If you decide what you want to eat before you leave the house you’re not tempted by the menu at the restaurant. Know what you can afford to spend out of your calorie budget – but don’t starve yourself, it’ll only court temptation.

This is when much of our mindless munching happens, we can see and smell the food all around us, and we’re usually at our hungriest. Bread baskets, rolls, or tortilla chips can be bottomless pits of calories. Order water right away and start sipping. Much of what we mistake as hunger is often merely thirst.
*Dessert menus, with huge, tasty close-ups of caloric landmines are on the table for a reason. Even if it’s a tabletop display, give it to your server.

Many people stumble here as they make split-second decisions and rationalize away poor choices. Don’t ever be shy about asking questions or making requests. The food is every bit as important as the setting, so make sure it’s what you want. Try ordering menu items a la carte. Platters, combos and meals may come with extras you might not want. Don’t feel rushed into making a hasty decision. Just because your server is in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to be. When you’ve made a healthy decision, stop looking at the menu. Take your time, and enjoy.

Don’t fill up on these calorie loaded starters that can be a meal on their own! Avoid anything fried or breaded, and be wary of any item that comes with a dip. If you do end up with something breaded, peel off the coating; much of the fat usually resides here.

It’s much better to be filling up on leafy greens at the beginning of your meal after all, than munching on those last few dozen french fries on your plate. Always get your salad dressings on the side. Instead of pouring it on top, dip your fork in the dressing before taking a bite. Avoid creamy soups like chowder or bisque, which can be loaded with fat and calories. Instead, try broth-based soups, like wonton, beef barley, or the classics like chicken noodle or vegetable.

Ah, the centerpiece of your meal – and usually the biggest collection of calories. Still, there is no need to sacrifice fulfillment and taste for the sake of eating lighter. You are usually safe with this course if you simply make good choices in two areas: preparation methods and sauces.
·         Bad preparation words = breaded, buttered, fried, scalloped
·         Good preparation words = grilled, baked, steamed, broile, stir-fried, roasted, blackened.
A recommended serving of meat is 4 oz so if you order a 9oz steak, make sure there is some left.SIDE DISHES
Order as many vegetable options as possible. Steamed, stewed or boiled veggies are best, with little or no added butter or oil. Potato options are good too. Stick with baked, boiled or roasted potatoes instead of fried potatoes, such as chips, fries or hash browns. Bottom line: try to never dine out without at least one vegetable on your plate.

Dining out is not a race, or a contest, it’s a chance to enjoy yourself and a good meal. Guilt can ruin everything. You can choose to not feel guilty, or you can give yourself less to feel guilty about. A few small eating strategies will make your experience away from home a positive one and help you build momentum for next time.
·         Eat your lowest calorie items first. Vegetables are always a good place to start.
·         Eat the amount you would eat at home. Just because it’s on your plate, it doesn’t mean you have to eat more.
·         Eat slowly, take your time. Enjoy and savor one bite at a time. Put your fork down between bites, or take a sip of water.
·         Concentrate on the conversation, not your food. If you’re talking, it takes longer to eat and helps you feel full before stuffing yourself.
·         When half of your food is gone, stop a moment and ask yourself this question: “Am I hungry?” It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often the answer is “no.”

You’ve done so well so far, don’t mess it up now! A healthy meal is something to build on, not an excuse to splurge on a triple fudge brownie volcano. Total dessert deprivation doesn’t work in the long run. The key is to find smart ways to enjoy a little bit. One cookie isn’t going to derail your entire program. If you absolutely have to have something and you can’t find another alternative, plain ice cream isn’t horrible. Just keep it to one scoop and plan another 20 minutes on the bike.