7 Ways to Dine Out Healthy

Eating out often can be a recipe for weight gain if you’re not careful. Creator of the South Beach Diet, Dr. Arthur Agatston, feels that the more meals you eat outside your own home, the more likely you are to put on pounds and possibly suffer from obesity-related ailments. When people dine out, they tend to eat on average 500 more calories per meal than they would if they ate a similar meal at home. When you’re not in control of how your meals are prepared, you’re likely to consume more calories and also more bad saturated fats, sugary and starchy carbs, and sodium.

Of course, there will be many occasions when you’ll want to spend a night out with your family or friends just for fun or to celebrate something special, and so you should. Here are some easy ways to stay healthy when dining out on the South Beach Diet:

  1. Choose the restaurant carefully. You’ll make the best food choices when you choose a restaurant that relies primarily on healthy ingredients. That often means avoiding fast-food chains and family/casual restaurants that typically populate their menus with fried, overly salted, and sugary offerings. Instead, pick a restaurant where you can discuss how the food is prepared with your server and influence what ends up on your plate.

     

  2. Use your server as a resource. Carefully read the descriptions of the dishes on the menu and then ask the server questions about how the food is prepared. For example: Is the fish fried, sautéed, baked, or broiled? Does the sauce contain butter or cream? How are the vegetable side dishes prepared? Once you’ve found out, don’t be afraid to ask for a dish to be cooked “your way.” The healthy way.

     

  3. Give the bread basket the boot. If the bread is not in front of you, you’re less likely to grab a piece—or three—out of habit. Furthermore, eating refined carbs, such as white bread or white rolls, can cause your blood sugar to spike then quickly fall, making you hungrier. If the bread basket is filled with a variety of rolls and breads, however—and you’re not on Phase 1—choose a piece that’s whole wheat or whole grain and ask for extra-virgin olive oil to dip it in, instead of slathering on butter, which is high in saturated fat.

     

  4. Load up on veggies. Skip the side of white potatoes or white rice most restaurants offer and ask for an extra helping of steamed or grilled vegetables or brown rice (on Phase 2) to complement your main dish instead. Filling up on high-fiber vegetables and whole grains curbs your hunger by delaying the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.

     

  5. Stick with lean protein. Not only does eating lean protein help you to maintain muscle mass and burn more calories during weight loss, it also helps curb cravings and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Ideally choose fish or shellfish, skinless turkey, chicken, or duck breast, pork loin or tenderloin, or lean beef more occasionally. You can also go meatless and ask for a dish made with tofu, beans, and/or vegetables. Request that your entrée be baked, grilled, broiled, or sautéed (with extra-virgin olive oil). And ask for sauces on the side.

     

  6. Consider your beverages. For a nonalcoholic beverage, enjoy water, club soda, or seltzer with lemon or lime, diet soda, or iced tea or iced coffee (with a no-calorie sweetener, if desired). If you don’t drink alcohol, we’re not encouraging you to start. But if you do, and you are on Phase 2 or Phase 3, you may enjoy a drink with your meal. Waiting to have a drink until the food arrives will help stabilize swings in blood sugar and prevent cravings. Enjoy a glass of red or white wine or extra-brut champagne, cava, or prosecco, or a light beer. If you want a cocktail, opt for one made with a sugar-free mixer. It’s recommended that women limit their intake to one alcoholic beverage a day, and men to one or two a day.

     

  7. Enjoy dessert, in moderation. You can enjoy dessert during all Phases of the South Beach Diet. If you’re on Phase 1, wait to get home from the restaurant to enjoy a ricotta crème or another Phase 1-friendly dessert. However, if you’re on Phase 2 or 3, you can enjoy fruit and a little cheese or a more decadent dessert now and then. If you do splurge, simply employ the South Beach Diet “Three-Bite Rule”: Order the dessert that is tantalizing you—along with enough forks for your tablemates. Then, savor a few bites and pass the plate to your fellow diners.

     

For more tips on healthy eating while dining out, order Dr. Agatston’s book, The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call or The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution!

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