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How to Eat Healthy When You Eat Out

Maintaining a healthy diet isn't the easiest thing to do. After all, French fries do exist, and so do date nights, dinner with friends, and saving time in the evening by grabbing take-out on the way home. Although making meals at home is the ideal way to maintain a nutritious diet, it's inevitable that you'll find yourself at a restaurant now and then. But don't worry: Here are 8 essential tips for eating out without setting you back.


  1. Start with soda.

If you tend to sip on a soft drink or alcoholic beverage while you're waiting for your food to arrive, consider swapping out the appertif for a club soda with lime. A bit of flavor and a few bubbles can go a long way while you wait for that food. You'll save up to 200 empty calories, and you won't be consuming as much sugar as you otherwise would.


  1. Order the boring salad.

You would never make yourself a salmon avocado salad with homemade artichoke vinaigrette at home, so take advantage of going out as an opportunity to try new and exotic salads. Instead of looking at the restaurant salad as a punishment for wanting to be healthy, look at it as a delicious reward that won't leave you stuffed and bloated.


  1. Bird is the Word.

Chicken has long been lauded as a healthy meat. The American Heart Association urges us to eat far less red meat than poultry due to the lower cholesterol and saturated fat content in birds. Most restaurants are more than happy to exchange a beef patty for a chicken breast, or you can opt for a grilled or baked chicken dish with veggies on the side. Speaking of which...


  1. Watch your sides!

When faced with the choice between French fries and sautéed veggies with your entree, muster your willpower, and order the veggies. The difference? Twelve grams of fat and a world of nutrients. A serving of fries has a whopping 17 grams of fat, but you'll find just five grams of (healthy) fat in the veggies, if they're prepared with olive oil. Add a salad to the lineup if that helps you feel better about missing out on the fries.


  1. Just say "no" to carbs.

Not all carbohydrates are bad. In fact, carbs are essential for healthy brain function and optimal body processes. But all carbs are not equal, and skipping the bread, rice, and potatoes can do a world of good for your health--and your waistline. Every eliminated cup of rice is 206 calories skipped, and noodles clock in at 221 calories you won't miss.


  1. Base it on plants.

A plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat, according to nutritionists. That means choosing something on the menu that's rife with plant-based ingredients like veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, tofu, and nuts. If you choose a meat dish, keep in mind that lean proteins — particularly poultry and fish — are best. But beware: Servings of meat in restaurants are usually much larger than the recommended serving of three ounces, which is about the size of a bar of soap.


  1. Stop when you're full.

It's so good you don't want to stop eating, but stopping when you're full can reduce the calorie, fat, and carb count of your meal. As soon as the feeling of hunger begins to wane, and you begin to slow down, signal for a box. To extend the pleasure of enjoying your food, eat slowly, and savor each bite.


  1. Forget the leftovers at least for the night.

If you've splurged and ordered something decadent, be sure to leave the box on the table and forget about it until your halfway home. If you remember to grab the box, put it immediately in the fridge, behind the milk, where you can't see it for the rest of the evening. You can have it tomorrow. Maybe even for breakfast.