Sticking to that diet and eating out, too

When Heidi Shoemaker, a registered dietitian at Washoe Nutrition Counseling, doesn't want to overeat at restaurants, she plays a little trick on herself.

Shoemaker, who admits she can't shake the "clean your plate"tendency engrained from childhood, asks for a to-go box when she orders.When the food arrives, she packs up half the goodies for another meal at home, and then cleans her plate without gorging herself.

Although managing a diet at restaurants is challenging, it's far from impossible, dietitians say.

A good first step is to remember that restaurants serve bigger portions than most people need.

If you don't want to pack food back to the office, consider splitting a dish with a lunch mate, ordering smaller portions off the appetizer menu or simply leaving food behind.

Planning is important.

"If you know you're going to have a heavy meal at lunch, up your exercise or have a lighter dinner," says Julie Dyson, a registered dietitian with Tahoe Clinical Nutrition Services at St.


Or if you want to eat light at the restaurant, she advises, be the first at the table to order, so your lunch mates' heavier choices don't tempt you to break your plan.

Choose lower-fat meals and load up on high-fiber vegetables and fruits if you want to limit calories.

Ask for substitutions, such as a baked potato instead of fries, or a whole-wheat roll instead of a croissant, Dyson says.

When you hit the salad bar, avoid the already-prepared salads with mayonnaise, and choose low-fat dressing or balsamic vinegar.

"Your basic white salad of just iceberg lettuce with croutons and ranch dressing is not what I consider a healthy salad," Shoemaker says.

"I shoot for color - dark green, orange, red.

Beans are another great addition.

They help fill you up."

Beware of fat content, Dyson says.

At Italian restaurants, tomato-based sauces are lower in fat and calories than white cream sauces.

Steamed rice and stir-fried dishes at Chinese restaurants are lower in fat than fried rice and battered and fried food, such as sweet and sour pork.

You can avoid hundreds of calories at Mexican food restaurants simply by turning down the sour cream and guacamole.

Watch out for hidden dangers.

Two big glasses of soda can add up to more than 400 calories.

Add a couple of fancy, sugary coffee drinks through the day, and your daily beverages could total a whopping 1,000 calories, Shoemaker notes.

Requesting condiments, such as salad dressing, on the side can sneak in extra calories, too.

Usually the waiter brings at least twice as much on the side as the chef would mix in.

Shoemaker suggests this trick: Dip an empty fork into the dressing, then stab the salad and take a bite.

That way, you get a taste of the dressing but few of the calories.

Special treats are OK, if they're in moderation.

Shoemaker says if she's in the mood for something sweet, she orders a decent salad, skips a main dish and indulges in a rich dessert.

Remember that it's not just what you eat the restaurant that counts - but how that fits into the whole day.

Shoot for a balance, dietitians say, but don't skip meals.

"A lot of people skip breakfast, and by the time lunch comes around and they're served these huge portions, they're so hungry they eat everything," Shoemaker says.


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