How to stay on track when you're eating out.

Eating out can be tricky when you’re trying to eat better: portions can be giant, and restaurant meals may contain hidden fat, carbs and calories. That doesn’t mean you have to skip eating out entirely if you’re trying to eat mindfully—but it’s always best to go in with a plan. Here are some top stay-on-track restaurant strategies:

Offer to choose the restaurant. Do your research beforehand, and find a restaurant that offers a wide array of options—including healthy ones.

Don’t arrive famished or you’ll succumb to the bread basket. Have a light protein-rich snack to take the edge off your hunger—say, a few almonds or a piece of string cheese—just before leaving for the restaurant.

Read the whole menu. Get a feel for what’s available and estimate the calories before you make a decision about what to order.

Decide what’s most important. Stick to one “extra” item: enjoy an appetizer or dessert or a glass of wine, not all three.

Have a default order. Develop a mental list of fallback meals you can count on no matter what the menu. Just about any restaurant kitchen can cook up baked chicken or broiled fish with vegetables.

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