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When it comes to eating out my Mom is the world’s easiest mark. She will sit down with plans to eat healthy, but all is lost the minute the waiter says, “We have some amazing specials tonight!” or “Did you see our appetizers are half off?” Later, as we stumble out to the parking lot, she always turns to me and grouses, “Why did you let me eat all that?”

Hey… I get it. Eating healthy at restaurants is hard. I too have entered a restaurant or seventy with the best of intentions only to later make the “walk of shame” to the parking lot in a chicken wings/cheeseburger/chocolate cake induced stupor.

What’s that? You have too? It’s an epidemic, I tell you! Well, have no fear, folks. I have come up with five tips that can help anyone eat healthy at a restaurant no matter how amazing the specials are.

  • Look For Healthy Options – Many restaurants now have a selection of healthy, low-calorie meals to choose from that taste nothing like diet food. Eat one of these surprisingly yummy items and make the walk of shame to the parking lot a thing of the past!
  • Pick Your Meal Before You Go – The menu for almost every restaurant can be found online these days. Pick out a healthy meal before you leave home and avoid making a bad choice in the heat of the moment. Heck, you won’t even have to open the menu and be tempted by its mega calorie meals!
  • Refuse Bread and Appetizers –  Most people look at these as a “warm up” to their meal, but the reality is that these warm-ups pack more calories than a lot of entrees. Split an appetizer with your date and eat a couple pieces of buttered breads and you’ve likely had close to (or more than) a thousand calories! And that’s before your entree! Just say no to these empty calories and eat ONLY your entree. Oh, and it goes without saying, but skip dessert too.
  • Shut Down Your Waiter – Don’t let these calorie pushers give you their spiel. When they start talking about their glorious specials, cut them off and say, “Thanks, but I already know what I am going to have.”
  • Visualize Your Evening Ahead Of Time – Going out to eat isn’t only about stuffing your face, it’s also about enjoying the restaurant’s ambiance and the company of your friends or relatives. Is there a section of the restaurant with a view that you enjoy? Call ahead and reserve a table there. Have things you want to discuss with your dinner companions? Make a list of them ahead of time so that your conversation becomes the focus of the evening and not pigging out.

My Mom, upon hearing these tips, said “Great ideas, honey. But I raised you better than to cut off a waiter!” So maybe politely stop the waiter from starting his spiel.

What other tips do you have for eating healthy at restaurants?