If you're trying to eat clean for the sake of your health (and waistline), restaurants can seem like a very scary place indeed.
Not only are you not in control of what goes into the food, but you're not in control of portion size, or the bread basket, or how often the wine is refilled… The list goes on.
While it can seem daunting trying to stick to your diet while eating out, as long as you stay focused it's surprisingly easy to enjoy yourself without feeling like your only option is the garden salad. Yes, you will need to avoid the bread basket, but that doesn't mean you need to avoid the restaurant entirely.
Here are a few tips to get you started…
1. Don't skip lunch
If you know you'll be eating a big meal in the evening, it can be tempting to deprive yourself earlier on in the day. But arriving to the restaurant starving is not going to bode well for an evening of restrained eating. So fill up with small meals throughout the day, and have a high fibre snack an hour or two before you eat to ensure you're not dining out on an empty stomach.
2. Don't go straight to the cocktail list
As soon as you sit down, as for some water to be brought to the table and ensure you drink a full glass before ordering anything else to keep you feeling full. If you're planning on having a glass of wine, order it to come with your food so that you're not tempted to have more than one.
3. Know your menu
Most restaurants have their menus available online, so check out what's on offer before you arrive and plan ahead what you'll order. That way you won't be tempted by that cheese-smothered special at the last minute. Watch out for terms like "au gratin," "alfredo" or "battered"… anything that suggests butter, oil or cream, basically,
4. Double up on veg
If your meal comes with a side of chips or something else you'd rather avoid, ask your waiter if it's possible to have extra salad or vegetables instead. Most chefs are happy to oblige.
5. Avoid buffets like the plague
Filling up your plate with a random selection of food and going back for more is a recipe for diet disaster. It might seem like good value, but choose a main course instead and you'll leave feeling much better.
6. Control your portions
The portion on offer depends on the restaurant, but if you're heading somewhere that's known for dishing out huge helpings of food, decide ahead that you're only going to eat two thirds at most, and get the rest to take away. Once the decision is made, it's harder to mindlessly eat the whole plate without noticing.