(1) Order before everyone else: I love this tip! I can't begin to tell you how many times I've been influenced by what my friends or family order. If they all order a salad then I will add a salad even if I haven't intended on having one. Also, if they are all splurging, I tend to use that as rationale that I should splurge as well. So, I like this idea -- if I order first, then I won't be tempted to switch my order up because of everyone else (and it goes without saying -- this means you can't ask everyone what they are getting before you order).
(2) Get dressing and sauce on the side: I love doing this because it allows me to enjoy my higher calorie dressings or sauces without eating tons of calories. Many people don't realize this, but salad dressing are often packed with calories and fat. The creamy ones can be more than 200 calories per ounce! To avoid eating all these calories for very little gratification, I developed a system where I dip my fork ever so slightly in my side of dressing or sauce, and then I wipe a small portion of dressing on the piece of food that I'm going to eat. I actually find that it adds just the right amount of flavor, vs. when my food is coated in heavy dressing.
(3) Get rid of the food you don't want to eat: I often decide ahead of time that I will only eat half of an entree. But then, when it is sitting on the plate staring at me, I can't help but start picking at it, and then you know what happens. So, a smart approach is to actually remove the food from your plate before you begin eating your portion. You can ask for a to-go box from the get-go, or if that is inconvenient, you can instead move it over to your bread plate or to a friend's plate.
I also have a couple of my own tips:
(1) Find some meals that work for you at some select restaurants: Once you establish a few favorite menu items at some select restaurants, you can suggest going to these restaurants to your friends or family. This way you avoid restaurants where you are uncomfortable with the menu items, and you can relax knowing exactly what you are going to order, allowing you to have much more fun. A few of my favorites: Amici's pizza without cheese or with light feta cheese, the Waldorf Salad (both dressings on the side) at California Pizza Kitchen, & Thai Lettuce wraps at Cheesecake factory.
(2) Substitute Salad or Steamed Vegetables for Fries: This is done best when it is in combination with my dressing tip above. :) Generally speaking, restaurants are really open to substituting salad or steamed veggies instead of fries. If you order the dressing for the salad on the side, or even if you order dressing to dip your fork in when eating your vegetables (including a potato which you can eat plain with just some dressing on the side), then you end up with a much healthier, lower calorie meal that is still quite tasty.
I hope you enjoy these tips. I'd love to hear your tips as well!
Photo by Jonathan_W