Diet-Proof Dining

foodblogTips for healthy and guilt-free eating out

It’s late January: how are your New Year’s resolutions faring? If you vowed, like many Americans, to eat healthier and maybe shed a few pounds this year, rest assured that you don’t need to hibernate while your friends go out for a bite. Here are some helpful hints that will let you join the party without compromising your resolutions.


Don’t come hungry. The automatic inclination in dining out is to get your money’s worth. Particularly in instances of large groups splitting checks and leaving sizable tips, it’s tempting to stock up. Resist. Eat a little snack before leaving (think carrot sticks, yogurt, or a granola bar) so you aren’t chomping at the bit. Not only does being hungry lead to the obvious—increased consumption—it also makes you more likely to binge on unhealthy things that are high in fats and sugars, as every foiled dieter who has abstained all day and mysteriously found themselves knee deep in cheese cake around midnight can attest.

Be mindful of portions. It is way too easy to mindlessly eat whatever is set in front of you. Which is why it’s vital to bear in mind that what’s set in front of you at restaurants is usually about twice as much as you would eat at home. Why not split with a friend? Or, if you don’t feel like sharing, ask for a to-go box ahead of time and pack half up for leftovers before you dig in. A tad unorthodox, sure, but Santa Cruz is full of eccentrics. Your waiter most likely won’t bat an eye.

Own the menu. Pesky customers bombard waiters with complaints and make myriad hair-splitting demands. Particular customers politely put in reasonable requests and make sure their dietary needs are being met. Learn the line, and walk it. It’s perfectly fine to ask for dressing on the side or if there is olive oil available instead of butter or mayonnaise. While you’re perusing the menu, look out for words like ”baked,” ”steamed” and ”grilled.” Conversely, treat “fried” “cheesy” and “dipped” are generally no-nos. It’s all in the name.

Ditch dessert (or proceed with caution). Desserts are meant to be special treats, and the night out feasting on restaurant fare that is (there’s no way around it) saltier, richer, and more fatty than home-cooked meals is just that. If your friends are lingering over pastries and cakes, though, and you’re seized with the insurmountable urge to join in on the indulging (hey, nobody’s perfect) make sure to pick something that is heavy on fruit and light on filling. Think sorbet, not mousse. And then only eat until you’re full and leave the rest to melt away—the way your extra pounds might if you follow these tips.

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