One of the toughest parts about eating healthy is avoiding restaurant traps. Eating out is necessary for people who travel often or have an active social life that requires meeting for meals. And while eating at a restaurant can require careful planning, there are ways to do it without falling prey to the problems of restaurant eating.

The most obvious restaurant trap is portion sizes. If you compare today’s portion sizes to those from fifty years ago you’ll see that today restaurants serve almost twice as much on the plate. If you’re someone who usually cleans your plate, this is a set up for diet failure.

In order to avoid this trap, you’ll need to be aware that you probably only need to eat about half of what you’re served. Many people find success by asking for to-go containers as soon as their meal is served. They package up half of their meal and then eat the rest later. Or order a few appetizers and a cup of soup (Helpful hint: In most restaurants the amount of soup in a cup is almost the same as a bowl, so don’t waste your money on a bowl).

You may also find a friend who enjoys the same dish and split it. In general eating half of what you’re served will be enough to satisfy your appetite. Avoid unhealthy sweetened or artificially sweeten beverages which can drive inflammation or disrupt your metabolism. Alcohol should also be limited.

Some restaurants have a special menu for people looking to eat healthier and lose weight.  If the restaurant you’re in doesn’t have a special menu, you can look for grilled proteins and steamed vegetables as an option. Salads can also be a good choice but enjoy with a olive oil vinaigrette which is anti-inflammatory and stay away from creamy dressings. Also, keep in mind that you’re the customer so politely ask your server to modify a dish to conform with your eating plan. For example, ask if you can swap out the potato for additional veggies. This should not be refused by a restaurant that wants to keep customers.

The ambiance in a restaurant can also make it a challenge to stick to your diet.  A quiet restaurant where you can have a conversation can help you slow down and help you stay on track.

But restaurants that are loud with servers who are pushing drinks and desserts on your table can make it more difficult. And the dessert menu is another big trap for people who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. You need to give your system ample time to digest your meal (Usually 1-2 hrs.) before dumping sugar into your system and spiking your glucose and insulin levels. After a few hours if you want something sweet, then have a couple of pieces of 70% or above organic chocolate. Tasty and good for you.

And while not every restaurant has this, the complimentary bread basket or bowl of chips that many restaurants offer can make it really difficult to limit your carbs. You want to ask your server to take it away so that the temptation can be avoided.

Restaurant traps can make it hard to stick to your healthy food plan, but by making good choices you can enjoy eating out without driving inflammation and disease. You may also want to consider hosting dinner parties at home so allow you to enjoy the social part of eating with friends without the restaurant traps.

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