Whether you’re working on losing weight, toning up or cleaning up your diet, eating out can be tricky.

Now, more than ever, I’m a big believer in the 80-20 rule — whether it be having that extra glass of wine, eating some ice cream, or having pizza night with the girls.

With that said, you don’t want to overdo it and derail months of progress and working hard in the gym. This “rule” isn’t just a free pass to binge all weekend long. Instead, it’s a recipe for balance when striving to achieve your health and weight goals. 

Okay, so, let’s talk about how to navigate menus and just overall to eat better when dining out. Check out the menu ahead of time. One of my favorite things to do, before I head to the restaurant, is scope out the menu. It is an excellent way to figure out what you want and how much you can splurge in advance. Plus, a lot of lists will offer specific vegetarian or healthier options. You have to know where to look. 

Don’t eat all the bread 

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This one is a real struggle for me because I am usually the one who immediately reaches for the bread basket at a restaurant. But, we all know what this it's nothing but empty calories and regret. If you’re famished when you arrive, ask for some veggies on a plate or a house salad and then once you let your blood sugar stabilize a bit, you can see how you fill. If you must have it, try and stick to one piece. 

Make friends with your waiter

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This is a tip that has always worked for me. No lie. The reason why? If you are super friendly and ask a lot of questions, without being high-maintenance, you stand a better chance of getting what you want if you are about to place a complicated order. For example, if you are trying a new low carb diet (like my roommate is currently) and you want to nix the carbs and substitute something else in, if you have already been courteous and polite, you have an in with your waiter. Politely ask if there’s any way of subbing out the carbs on your plate for a healthier side from the menu instead. It should work no problem if you play your cards, right?

Slow down and be present

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Eating out with your significant other or your girls should be a fun and enjoyable experience with your friends. It should be a time of social interaction, with less emphasis on the food. You can still have a good night out and practice mindful eating at the same time; it just takes you slowing down and being in the moment. 

Cut it in half

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We all know portion sizes at restaurants can add up to thousands of calories. And, let’s be real, most of the good ones usually are. But if you are watching your car or calorie intake, it’s likely that there’s another person who is attending the scale or their wallet too. See if your friend wants to go half on a meal with you. Then, that opens up the opportunity for you to give another item on the menu a try.  

Consider an appetizer instead of an entree

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Sometimes, I like to build my meal and check out the appetizer section first. At some restaurants, this is where you can get a nice little portion size that is still filling, just not as overwhelming as a full entre.

Get the desert 

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Going out for dinner should be treated as a “treat yo self” moment, so if dessert is part of the evening, naturally you go for it, sis. Now, my recommendation when it comes to indulging in a decadent dessert is that you try to stay relatively healthy with your dinner because, in life, it is about moderation and balance. I recommend sharing a dessert with your dinner mates as well, that way you won’t feel overstuffed. 

What I am trying to get at is this, know that it is ok to enjoy yourself when you’re out for dinner, no matter the occasion. It could be by yourself, with friends or with family, it doesn’t matter. Just know, that not everything can be in control at all times, remember that it is okay to follow the 80/20 rule and live your life to the fullest. If you want the cake, eat it. Then, wake up the next morning, hit the reset button, do a workout, have a good hearty breakfast, and you’re all good! No need to dwell in the past. It’s all about balance.

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