1. Read the menu before you go: Know what you're going to order before you go, that way you've committed to an option and have had time to think it over outside of the restaurant setting.
2. Check the nutrition info from the restaurant: Many restaurants are required to publish their nutritional info, and if there's a dish you're not sure about or are considering, checking the info will certainly help you make your decision. Most likely, you'll be absolutely shocked by what you find even on dishes they want you to think are the healthy options. Check out the smartphone app "Restaurants" for an easy reference to over 100 different restaurants across the US.
3. Say goodbye to soda: It's no secret by now that everyone is better off without soda of any kind, especially the "diet" or "0 calorie" varieties. So go for the water, or freshly brewed tea, because at home or at a restaurant, if you're looking to live a healthier life, cutting out soda should be on the top of the to-do list. Why not the diet or zero calorie kinds? Here's why. Oh, and the only drink to get a refill on is water.
4. Avoid these dishes, or dishes with the following: Cream sauces, anything scalloped, cheese, gravy, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamy, au gratin, crispy, and saut�ed (not sitr-fried, there is a difference).
5. Eat colorfully. Choose dishes that look like the colors of the rainbow, and not the color of dirt. Add vegetables as sides that have been steamed, baked, or stir fried and avoid the ones covered in cheese, sauces, sour cream, or that have been fried.
6. Eat Colorfully Part 2: This rule works for pasta sauces also. Meat and cheese free marinara sauces are always a better option than any other pasta sauce. The more it looks like the color of a tomato, the better. The lighter the color of the sauce gets, the worse it gets for you, this includes vodka and "pink" sauces. Always avoid Alfredo or cheese sauces, there's no way around it, warmed heavy cream, butter, and cheese will never be healthy for you.
7. Read through the whole menu before you decide: Many people tend to gravitate to one section of a menu, but there are many other options that you may be overlooking. Make sure to weigh all of your options before deciding, and even consider trying something new.
8. Skip the butter: It may sound picky, but you can easily to have your food prepared without butter or cream. Many times restaurants use butter and cream when they don't need to, or when you wouldn't even use it for the same dish at home. Simply ask the waiter to have your food prepared without butter or cream and they will be able to do so.
9. Always ask for your bread "dry:" Your body doesn't need a bun/roll/toast that's been covered or toasted in butter, ever. So skip that part and just enjoy what's actually IN the sandwich, after all that's why you're ordering it, right?
10. Say no to fried anything: You're trying to make your restaurant experience healthier right? Then just let go of the fried food and find a new favorite. Look instead for baked, steamed, broiled, roasted, poached, or boiled options.
11. Order salads first: Start with a salad instead of a calorie dense appetizer. The salad will help fill you up and give you the veggies and color you need as part of a meal before your heavier dish comes out.
12. Red meat: If you choose to order red meat, remember 3oz is a serving, which is the size of a deck of cards. Chances are most restaurants will be serving you anywhere from 8-16 oz of steak, measure out the serving size immediately and save or avoid the rest. Also, choose the sirloin cut, not ribs, t-bone, or porterhouse.
13. Always ask for dressings on the side: Whether it's in a wrap/sandwich you're ordering, or on a salad, always ask for the dressing/spreads on the side. You will not only be able to choose how much you use, but you will most likely you use much less.
14. Always choose broth based soups: If ordering a soup, avoid the chilies and chowders and stick to the lighter soups with the clear bases. These will have much less fat, fewer calories, and less cholesterol. They are always better off homemade so that you can control what's in them.
15. Don't be afraid to ask questions: If you're wondering what's in a certain dish or how it's prepared, don't be afraid to ask the waiter. After all, its your meal, your health, and your money.
16. Know it's ok to NOT finish everything on your plate. Counter to what many were taught as children, everything does not need to be gone from your plate before you can consider yourself "done" with your meal.
17. Eat slowly: It takes 20 minutes from when you're actually full for your brain to signal to you that you are full. So put your fork down often, take time to converse with those you're at dinner with, and when you feel full, listen to your body and stop eating.
18. Know what you're ordering before you dive into the bread: If you plan on ordering a sandwich or pasta dish, the rolls at the start of the meal are only adding more calories and carbs to your meal you won't need in the end. Set a limit (if any at all) on the bread you'll eat before you even order and keep in mind what the rest of your meal looks like when you do.
19. Take 1/2 of it "to-go" before you even start eating: Portion sizes look like this. If there's more on your plate when it shows up, that's not you're fault, just remove it before you get a chance to consider eating it; it's more than you need anyway.
20. Split Entrees: Restaurants love to give you a huge plate of food and more likely than not, what they give you is way more than what you actually need. Splitting it up between 2 people at the start is a good way to make sure you're back in a normal range of portion sizes.