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Posted By Judi Samuels, M.A. on Nov 30, 2017 10:00:00 AM

How to conquer eating out a lot this holiday season...

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Sometimes when you're trying to lose weight, you steer clear of restaurants to avoid those large portion sizes, bottomless bread baskets and all those high-calorie entrees. But shunning restaurants altogether isn't a realistic approach to weight loss—and it's unnecessary.

As we enter the holiday season, use this guide whether you’re eating at a restaurant or a party. You can eat out and lose weight. Start with this list of tips to help you navigate the menu options at your favorite fast-food joints and sit-down restaurants.

1. Set a budget. Determine how much you're willing to eat before looking at the menu. You can give yourself some leeway by scheduling some exercise on or near days you plan to eat out. Putting in gym time or going for a brisk walk will help offset a little extra eating. And remember, be flexible. You can loosen up a bit on special occasions, as long as you eat carefully most of the time. (Just don't let every day become a special occasion.)

2. Put on your game face. Decide on some guidelines before you go to a restaurant, and stick to them. For instance:

  • Skip the all-inclusive menu and opt for à la carte selections. Doing so might not be as economical, but you'll probably eat less.
  • Take one piece of bread, and then ask your server to remove the breadbasket from the table.
  • Ask your dining partner(s) to support your efforts and join in.

3. Make special requests. You're paying good money for that meal, so you're entitled to make special requests or slight modifications, especially at better restaurants. Why not say:

  • Can I get that without butter? Grilled? With the sauce/dressing on the side?
  • I'd like mixed greens instead of fries with my sandwich.

4. Practice portion control. Some restaurant portions can be two, three, even four times the "normal" size—especially super-sized fast food meals. Keep your portions in check by:

  • Ordering a salad as a starter and then splitting a main entrée with a friend.
  • Creating your own scaled-down meal from a couple of appetizers and/or side dishes.

5. Break down (language) barriers. If you don't know what a preparation term means, ask. In general, though, the following words translate into high-fat, high-calorie dishes:

  • Au gratin, scalloped, hollandaise; fried, batter-dipped, extra-crispy
  • Parmigiana, Scampi, Bolognese

6. Downsize the super-size. Super-sized fast food meal options can be loaded with calories. Either:

  • Order something small, like a basic burger. After all, the first bite tastes the same as the last.
  • Order yourself a children's meal.

7. Watch out for extras. The average burger with ketchup, lettuce and tomato isn't so bad. But one with "the works" is usually a caloric nightmare. Skip:

  • Bacon, cheese and mayonnaise.
  • Double-burger patties and extra pieces of bread.

8. Don't go top heavy. Salad bars and garden salads grace menus across the country, but those extra toppings can sabotage your seemingly diet-conscious choices:

  • Skip the croutons, grated cheese and bacon.
  • Opt for small amounts of dressing on the side; a little olive oil and lemon juice is great too!

9. Don't drink away your progress. A drink with dinner is fine, but too many margaritas may wreak havoc on your dieting resolve. Keep your appetite under control by:

  • Alternating alcoholic beverages with sparkling water or seltzer.
  • Not drinking alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.

10. Resign from the "clean plate club." You paid for it so you have to eat it, right? Wrong. Just think of the health and emotional costs of those extra calories on your body. Downsize by:

  • Eating half the meal and doggie-bagging the rest. Ask for the bag when the food arrives!
  • Pushing your plate away when you're full.
  • Remember to eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your body to recognize that it's full.

A final word of advice: if you’re tempted by too many things, try to pick one treat for the day that is special and let it be your reward for not over-indulging on the rest! For more info on healthy eating, visit www.judisamuels.com today!

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