Make a reservation
Time spent waiting for a table can tempt you to visit the bar for pre-dinner cocktails and snacks. Before you know it, you've consumed copious pre-meal calories – and might have even spoiled your appetite.
Watch the liquid calories
A 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 120 to 150 calories; a standard cocktail can contain anywhere from 150 and 500, depending on ingredients. Plus, it’s hard enough to make better food choices under normal circumstances; just think how much harder it is with a few drinks under your belt.
The water pitcher is your friend
There's no better way to quench your thirst
– or to help you feel fuller without actually eating anything. It’s all-natural, calorie-free and on-the-house.
Be fluent in menu speak
Some menu items are obviously lower in fat and/or calories. For example, a vegetarian flat-bread pizza makes more sense than the meat-lover's deep-dish variety. Being able to accurately translate descriptive food terms such as “creamy” or “crispy” also is a big help. To brush up on your lingo, check out our Menu Decoder
Forgo the freebies
Say "no thanks" to the complimentary bread basket or bowl of chips to avoid packing on unnecessary calories.
Break protocol (within reason)
There's no rule that says you have to order an entrée (an appetizer-salad combo might be a lower-calorie approach). Nor is there a rule that requires you to order an item exactly as it's described on the menu. If you want a Cobb salad without the blue cheese or bacon, ask. As long as you're polite, most restaurants will try to accommodate you.
Practice portion control
Restaurant portions are notoriously huge. When you order an entree, ask for a take-out container, too. Then, when the food arrives, immediately pack away at least half of it so it’s out of sight (and mind). Split a main course. Seriously consider "small plate" options. Does anyone really need a whole dessert to themselves? (The key word here is "need.") Order one dessert for the table, get extra forks or spoons and enjoy one or two satisfying bites.
Order real food for the kids
Dining with kids? What a great opportunity for a teaching moment! Graciously hand the children's menu back to the waiter and help those fledgling foodies assemble a meal from the adult selection of appetizers, side dishes and salads. It's likely to be more nutritious and flavorful than chicken nuggets and hot dogs, and probably not much more expensive.
Slow it down
Take time to connect with your dinner companions, enjoy small bites of food, chew thoroughly and taste every flavor. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more time it takes for you to eat, the less you actually do – and the more you can savor and enjoy the experience. Bon appetit!