Restaurant Hacks: Save Calories Dining Out

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Not every restaurant provides nutritional info or offers low-calorie menu options -- often, you're on your own. And while preparing your own meals at home gives you the most control, it's unreasonable to never go out to eat. So for those times you're dining out, here are our best restaurant hacks...


HG FYI: Many restaurants (especially diners and chains) are happy to accommodate special requests, if they can. Go in with a game plan, and remember to ask nicely!

Restaurant Hacks: Save Calories Dining Out

Omelette hack:
Look for the most veggie-rific omelette on the menu: tomato, peppers, onions... the works. Ask for egg whites or fat-free egg substitute in place of regular eggs -- this is such a common switch, many menus list it as an option. Skip the cheese, or ask them to go light on it. Then request your breakfast cooked with nonstick spray or very little oil. Between the yolks, cheese, and oil, you just saved hundreds of calories...

DIY fruit and yogurt bowl: Straight-off-the-menu parfaits can be a little sketchy, due to too much honey, granola, nuts... all of which are pretty calorie dense. Instead, order up a fruit salad and a side of fat-free or light yogurt. Add the yogurt to your fruit bowl (along with a little no-calorie sweetener, if you like), and dig in!

Hack your appetite... with soup: Studies show that starting a meal with a broth-based soup leads to taking in fewer calories during that meal. Ummm, that's amazing. Plus, soup's delicious, so it's really a win-win...

Personalize your protein: Instead of trying to retrofit a complex dish to fit your dietary needs, ask your server if you can get a piece of lean fish or chicken; request it baked, broiled, or grilled, with some lemon on the side. This way, the server can place an order for what you do want instead of what you don't. In need of a smart side? See the "Steamed veggie upgrade" section below.

Shrimp cocktail hack: This is one of the best in-plain-sight appetizers that you might not even consider for a meal. Think about it -- it's boiled shrimp with a non-creamy sauce on the side. Gold mine! Pair it with a entrée-sized dinner salad or a healthy side dish, and you're good to go.

Salad tweaks: Scan the menu for the salad that'll require the fewest revisions: one that's mostly veggies with lean protein. If needed, ask that they leave off any croutons, cheese, fried noodles, or candied nuts. Then get oil and vinegar or low-fat/light dressing on the side. Most importantly? Dip, don't pour!

Sandwich hack: If you find yourself at a place that offers "lettuce buns," consider yourself a lucky human. But if they're not on the menu, have no shame: Just order your sandwich goodies bun-free and over lettuce. Another option? Ditch the top bun half or bread slice. That alone will likely save you at least 100 calories. In terms of sandwich types, grilled chicken and lean cold cuts are two great ways to go. For condiments, skip the mayo, and go for mustard and/or ketchup.

Steamed veggie upgrade: We all know that plain steamed veggies are a smart side dish, but they can be a little dull. Solution? Order one of these on the side: marinara sauce, lemon wedges, balsamic vinegar, or salsa. Perfect!

Dessert hack: It's happened more times than you can count... The meal ends, you're craving something sweet, and the server hands you a dessert menu with nothing even close to guilt-free on it. Here's what to do: Ask said server if they have any fruit. Often, they've got berries on hand for garnishing other desserts and will have no problem serving you some. Couple that with tea or coffee, and you just saved yourself from a calorie catastrophe.


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