But there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the occasional meal out while on a diet, so here’s how to make eating out less of a threat. Remember, it is important to plan ahead for such occasions if you can.
• Simple, plain foods such as steamed vegetables, boiled rice and grilled chicken are often the healthiest, but, in restaurants, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether the dishes with fancy names are simple, healthy ones or complicated, fatty ones. Ask your waiting staff for more information before ordering. They should be able to tell you how a dish is cooked and what’s in it.
• Very often, sauces and dressings are high in fat or oil. Ask for these to be excluded from your meal if possible. Most restaurants will serve un-buttered vegetables on request, as this is added immediately prior to service anyway.
• Don’t go hungry all day because you're having a big meal in the evening, or you might end up eating your meal so quickly you won’t enjoy it. Just eat slightly less at lunchtime and snack on fruit.
• Limit the amount of alcohol that you drink by alternating alcohol with a diet drink or water. Maybe you could offer to drive to further limit the temptation.
• Try to avoid temptations and cravings when the sweet trolley arrives. Look for lower-fat options. Dessert doesn’t have to mean double chocolate fudge sundae! Sorbet, some yogurts and fresh fruit salad are all great and should satisfy a sweet tooth. How hungry are you really at this point? What’s your hunger score?
• Take regular breaks during your meal to allow your brain time to register the food that you have eaten.
• Plan the food that you will eat at the restaurant in advance if possible. Call ahead to ask about food choices and prices. If the fixed price menu tempts you into eating food you do not really want, choose a la carte or be brave and ask for an alternative to a high-fat starter.
• If you are eating at someone’s house, you either need to tell people straight that you prefer to eat healthily so that they can prepare foods accordingly, or your objective should be one of damage limitation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for smaller portions or leave a little on your plate. You don’t have to be a member of the clean plate club. After all, in some countries this is considered a great courtesy.
Even if the food is higher fat than perhaps you might want to eat, having a slightly smaller portion can be a big positive. You get to eat a gorgeous taster of what you like without too much diet damage. Try to avoid pre-dinner nibbles, too. Save your appetite for the meal.
Plan in some extra activity on the day that you will be dining out or for the day after. Something simple such as an extra walk at lunchtime or playing with the children will help to limit the damage.