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Dining Out Guidelines


Great news: If you follow these tips, it can actually be easier to eat out than at home! After all, you can't go back to the kitchen and get seconds, vegetables always seem to taste better, and your kitchen doesn't end up smelling like fish!

J.J. Virgin, the Weight Loss Challenge nutritionist, and Dr. Phil offer these hints and guidelines to help you behave and make better choices.

  • Pick a restaurant with healthy choices. "There are very few restaurants where you can't find something healthy if you look," J.J. says.

  • Think about what you're going to eat before you get there, so you don't sit down and get tempted. Once you smell the foods and see what other people are eating in a restaurant, it's very hard to assert yourself. "You've got too much working against you," Dr. Phil says. "So decide ahead of time what you're going to eat, even if you have to write it down."
  • Refuse the bread basket unless it's whole wheat. "You can't eat what's not there," Dr. Phil says. If you have a dining partner who insists on keeping the bread basket, keep it out of your reach.

  • Try having two appetizers instead of a large entree, or have an appetizer, a vegetable side dish and a salad instead for your meal. You get all of the good cuisine with portion control built in.

  • Start with a clear soup or a deep green leafy salad with an olive oil vinaigrette. "I'm really worried about people when they order dressing on the side, because the tendency is to have a little salad with your dressing," J.J. says. If you use oil and vinegar, use mostly vinegar and add a little olive oil.

  • Whenever it is available, have the coldwater fish.

  • If you are having wine, stick with red and have it in the middle of dinner. Better yet, have it for dessert.

  • If the starchy carbs they are serving are refined (i.e., mashed potatoes, white rice, pasta), skip them and order double veggies instead.

  • Ask questions and be assertive with the wait staff — ignorance isn't an excuse for making poor choices! "You're the boss; you're paying for it," J.J. reminds you. "Ignorance is not bliss. Don't assume anything."

  • Eliminate fried foods, and don't be fooled when the menu says something is sauteed in butter. "That's fancy fried food," J.J. says.

  • Eat your veggies. This is a great opportunity to get your three cups of veggies and to sample vegetables you don't normally cook at home. Look at what the options are for vegetables and how they are prepared. Mix and match to get what you want.

  • Enlist support. Ask your dining partner to help you stick to your program before you go.

  • Avoid sauces and oils.

  • Follow the "three bite rule." If a dessert is worth it, share it and have three polite bites of it ONLY.

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