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handwritten-italian-marketing-menuWhen you are deciding on how to lose weight, eating out at your favorite restaurant may be the first thing you nix from your schedule, but that does not have to be the case. You can still be social and enjoy the dining out experience with your friends and family. You just need to remain conscious of your food choices and dining habits in order to keep your diet on track.

Remember: this meal is no different than any other meal, so treat your day similarly by planning for it. Keep your eating routine the same. Do not skip a meal or eat less than normal in expectation of eating out later that day. Entering into any meal already hungry will set you up for overeating.

If you are just starting your diet, consider checking out your options online so you know what you are going to order before you step into the restaurant. It can reduce a lot of anxiety to have a plan. You may also want to start with establishments that are better with their low­-carb options until you are more firmly established in your new dietary habits. For example, the website healthydiningfinder.com helps narrow down the search for restaurant meals based on carbs, protein, and other help nutritional facts.

If the restaurant serves bread or chips, request the servers not bring them to your table. Instead, request water right away. Drinking water before a meal not only helps settle the desire for an appetizer, but it will also help you feel more satiated before your meal begins. If you prefer a little extra taste, consider sparking water with lime or request lemon with your water.

Do not be afraid to ask questions and make special requests. Waiters and waitresses are used to taking special orders, so there is no need to feel embarrassed or worried. Go ahead, and ask for an alternative vegetable side­ dish, such as spinach or asparagus, instead of a starchy potato. Instead of a rice pilaf, request a salad. Remember: you are the customer, and many other customers before you have made similar requests.

Consider converting a sandwich into a lettuce wrap or turning a hamburger into a salad bowl. This has become so common that mainstream restaurants have it as a menu option. The Counter, for example, has their signature line of “burgers in a bowl.” In­-n-Out has their “protein­-style” burger. Chipotle has their “burrito bowl” and “burrito salad” (of course, you still need to watch what you add to the bowl to keep it low-­carb). Lastly, be mindful of your portions. You do not have to eat everything on your plate in one sitting. Request a take out box, and bring the remaining portion home. Your dinner leftovers can now be lunch for tomorrow.

Remember that learning how to eat low­-carb at restaurants is a skill, and as with all skills, you will get better as you practice more. So, get out there and start practicing!

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