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Tips for Eating Out
Eating out on a diet doesn't have to be cause for panic. We have been raised to clean out plates and socialized to believe that we need three course meals every time we eat out, but that doesn't mean dining out will doom your dieting efforts! Just use these 10 simple tips for eating out on a diet:
Review the menu before you go. Many restaurants post their entire menu online so you can print it out for reference. If you often eat at "mom and pop" type restaurants that aren't online, call and ask for the menu to be faxed to you, or pick up a takeout menu on your next visit. Highlight the healthiest options for each menu and store them all in a central location. Then, when you are planning your next night out, take the time to decide on your dishes at home before you've been tempted by the sight of other choices. If you decide to indulge in an unhealthy item off the menu, prepare for this and eat healthy leading up to that meal, balancing out the day.
Order from the appetizer menu. Not only are appetizers more reasonably-portioned, they will save you some money as well. Too hungry to be satisfied with just a starter? Order a side salad, too -- the fiber-rich veggies will round out your meal. Soup is super-filling, so it's an awesome appetizer add-on, too just steer clear of cream-based ones. Avoid any 3 course meal specials as they will set you up for dieting failure!
Beware these high-fat menu items: Cream sauce, butter, oil, au gratin, breaded, Alfredo, battered or batter-dipped, "with gravy," or smothered. Unless you've spared yourself treats for several days and snacked on salad greens all day, these little "extras" aren't worth the extra calories.
Modify the menu. At most restaurants anything and everything can be found batter-dipped and fried, do not be afraid to make a special request. Many restaurants will take your dietary needs into account so you'll be a happy customer and return. Don't hesitate to request anything on the menu to be prepared in a more diet-friendly and for sauces or dressings to be served on the side. It's not likely that you will be denied.
The meat is on. As tempting as that bucket of fried chicken looked on the commercial before you left home, order poultry steamed, poached, roasted, broiled, boiled, grilled or baked. Ask for skinless chicken whenever possible or remove it yourself. If you do treat yourself to fried chicken, choose white meat as it has fewer calories than dark. Of course, chicken, chicken and more chicken gets old after a while, so if you're asking, "Where's the beef?" allow yourself red meat a few times a week -- just be sure to choose leaner cuts of meat like loin or flank.
"Wrap it up, I'll take it!" You know you're at a nice restaurant when the server takes your plate away and wraps up your leftover food for you at the end of the meal. (And if you're in a really nice restaurant, you'll get the eating out equivalent of a balloon animal -- the tin foil swan!) To ensure you don't leave sans swan, keep temptation at bay and ask the server to wrap up half of your meal as soon as it is served.
Banish buffets. Portion control can become a foreign concept for even the most determined dieter at an all-you-can-eat buffet. (Who can practice moderation when there are new, clean plates just beckoning to be filled?) The sheer variety of foods available at buffets is also daunting -- studies have shown that when we're given more choices, we tend to eat more without realizing it. Simply avoid buffet restaurants and you won't have to face this temptation.
Think kid sized portions. It's smart to eat smaller meals during the day when you're planning to dine out. Just don't eat too sparingly, though -- you don't want to be so famished by the evening that you overeat. If mini meals don't tide you over, have a small, healthful snack in the afternoon to curb your appetite and you'll be much more in control come dinner time. Consider splitting your main dish with your dining partner as well. This is cheaper and lowers your calorie intake drastically!
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