Healthy food choices when eating out

If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your healthy lifestyle, a big part of being successful is having the freedom to enjoy the things you love and not feel deprived.

Love dining out with family and friends? If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your healthy lifestyle, a big part of being successful is having the freedom to enjoy the things you love and not feel deprived. Strike the right balance with this ultimate dining out guide from Mandi Knowles, dietitian for South Beach Diet.

Be choosy

Don’t default to your neighborhood greasy spoon just for the sake of dining out. Try a new restaurant and make it a special occasion.

Go online before you dine

Most restaurants post their menus online. Make a game plan beforehand so you won’t be tempted by unhealthier options in-person.

Know your meal plan

Commit to ordering foods like lean protein and veggies steering clear of calorie bomb add-ons like heavy dressings and condiments.

Don’t show up starving

Don’t skip out on breakfast or snacks so you can splurge. Showing up overly hungry makes you likely to overindulge. Plus, skipping meals could lead to a blood sugar crash and subsequent snacking, throwing you off track.

Be the portion police

Restaurant portions are often two or three times the amount you need for any given meal. Consider sharing an entrée with a friend, saving half your meal for later, ordering from the kid’s menu or choosing a few healthy appetizers instead of a full meal.

Start green

Start with a side salad to sneak in a serving of veggies and prevent overdoing it once your main meal arrives. Hold the croutons and cheese and ask for the dressing on the side.

Have it your way

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Seek out lighter preparations. Think steamed, broiled and grilled instead of breaded, battered and fried. Switch preparations, substitute ingredients, nix the butter or cream and if that’s not possible, ask your server to point you to healthier selections.

Make reservations

Nothing’s worse than waiting when you’re hungry. Before you know it, you’re seated and your desperate tummy is calling the shots.

Stay hydrated

According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, drinking just over two cups of water 30 minutes before a meal helped dieters consume fewer calories and lose 44 percent more weight than those who didn’t hydrate before meals. Bring a water bottle in the car with you so you feel fuller when you arrive.

End with coffee

Skip dessert and enjoy a coffee, tea or espresso to give your stomach time to signal your brain that you’re full. Plus, you’re ending the meal with a pick that’s not packed with sugar, processed carbs and unhealthy fats.

For more great tips, visit palm.southbeachdiet.com.

With these simple strategies, you can visit all your favorite restaurants without any guilt or risk of sabotaging your healthy lifestyle.