Don't let eating out derail your diet.

Don't let eating out derail your diet.

Americans spend more than half of their food dollars in restaurants-places where the main goal is to get you to eat more. As always, a well thought-out plan is essential.

Here are some of our top "stay-on-track" restaurant strategies.

  • You choose the restaurant. Select a place whose menu offers healthy options; call ahead to preview the menu.
  • 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.
  • Decide what's most important. Stick to one "extra" item: enjoy an appetizer OR dessert OR a glass of wine, not all three.
  • Plan your calories accordingly. Eat lightly at lunch before an evening meal out, or "bank" some extra calories earlier in the week.
  • 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.