Diners have become more health-conscious the last few years, and now want healthy choices whether eating at home or at their favorite restaurants. Luckily, the restaurant industry has been quick to accommodate the demand, so you’ll find you have many options to “eat healthy” these days.

Whether you’re eating at home or dining out, the same rules for watching your weight apply. You need to eat more vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Choose smaller portions of lean meats, fish and poultry. Eat a variety of foods, and fresh, raw foods are better. Cut back on salt, sugar, saturated fats and alcohol. Drink plenty of water, and include exercise every day as part of your daily lifestyle choice.

So whether you’re having lunch with the gang, or enjoying a romantic dinner for two, you can enjoy delicious-tasting foods that are low-in calories and good for you, with just a little forethought and planning.

Here are some easy tips to remember when ordering out that will help you to lose weight even when eating at your favorite restaurants:

1. If you know the menu from the restaurant you’re going to, plan what you’re going to have ahead of time. This will help save you from making a last minute decision that could result in high-calorie choices.

2. Drink at least one full-glass of water or iced tea before eating your meal. This helps your digestive process, and, because you’ll feel full sooner, you will eat less. Water is a great weight loss secret weapon in its own right anyhow.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for the “senior citizen” special or kid’s-sized portions. Most restaurants will accommodate you — and often you’ll pay less as well!

4. Order first. That way you’re much less likely to be influenced by the choices of your companions.

5. If you’re not sure how something is prepared, don’t be afraid to ask. And if the dish is cooked in oil or butter, you can always ask if they have a “fat free” option.

6. If everything on the menu is high in fat or calories, ask if the chef could prepare a plate of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many restaurants offer a vegetarian selection, so if you don’t see it on the menu, ask. Stick to fruits that burn fat where possible.

7. When ordering meat or fish, ask that it be grilled or broiled, and prepared without oil or butter. (When you eat it, use lemon or herbs and spices to give it flavor rather than heavy sauces).

8. Order an appetizer and a salad as your meal. Or a soup and salad. For dessert, choose fresh fruit.

9. When choosing soup, remember that cream-based soups have many more calories than broth-based ones.

10. If you’re having a full meal, split the appetizer and desert with your companion.

11. If you decide to order pasta, tomato sauce has fewer calories than cream-based sauces, just like soup.

12. Choose breadsticks over bread, or if you eat bread, don’t add butter. Stay away from muffins and croissants, and choose whole grain over white.

13. Choose steamed vegetables instead of baked potatoes or other starches. Again, use lemon and herbs and spices rather than butter to flavor them with. Read up on foods that burn fat and take a look at our fat burning foods list.

14. Whenever possible, eat like the Europeans do, and have your biggest meal at lunchtime. Not only will you save money, but you’ll cut down on calories at the same time!

15. Take the time to enjoy your meal. Savor the flavors and textures of your food, and enjoy the company you’re with. When you eat slowly, you give your body’s internal clock the time it needs to know when you’ve had enough. When you’re full, stop eating. Ask your server to remove your plate so you’re not tempted to keep eating while you wait for your companion to finish.

16. Ask for salsa on your baked potatoes, rather than sour cream and butter. Not only is salsa much lower in calories, but it adds a “spicy” flavor to potatoes.

17. Order salad dressings and sauces “on the side.” This gives you more control of how much to use. Another tip for salad dressing — rather than pouring the salad dressing on your salad, dip your fork into the dressing first, and then into the salad. You’ll get the same amount of flavor, without all the added calories!

18. Choose brown rice over white rice (or french fries), whole grain breads and rolls over white. Not only are they lower in calories, but they are better for you.

19. Stay away from “all you can eat” buffets and salad bars. It’s too easy to lose track of the amount of food you’re eating, even when it’s salads. If that’s your only choice, then stay away from the pasta, marinated salads, cheeses and fruit salads with whipped cream. Stick to soups, raw vegetables and fresh fat burning fruits.

20. Have your soup first. It will help to fill you up, and most soups have fewer calories.

21. If you’re craving something sweet, and don’t want fresh fruit, choose sorbet. If you absolutely HAVE to have the chocolate sauce, use the same trick as you did with the salad dressing — dip your fork into it first, then your dessert.

22. Split your dessert with your companion. You’ll still feel like you got to be indulgent, and you’ll only have to exercise half as long to burn off the extra calories!

23. When ordering sandwiches, order them with mustard only, rather than mayonnaise. Not only does mustard have almost no calories, but you won’t miss the mayo!

24. If the portion you were served is large, only eat half of it. Take the other half home. Not only will you get two meals for the price of one, but you’ll cut the calories in half as well!

25. Go for a walk after eating. Stroll along the beach, walk through a park, visit a zoo. You’ll burn calories and get your exercise at the same time!

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