Trips to restaurants can be a mine field of temptation. The best intentions can crumble when you are enjoying yourself with people who are feasting on delicious foods. Two aspects of this concern us. The first is how much we eat, but there are methods for keeping eating under control. The second is to control our response to the event.

One trip to a restaurant never torpedoed any diet with its calories alone. An extraordinary meal of 5000 calories could only bring a pound and a half of weight. The response to those calories, however, could lead to trouble, your attitudes during and after these events are as important as what you eat.

Eating at Restaurants

It is hard to be virtuous at restaurants. This is a real problem for people in business or those whose lifestyle includes eating away from home. What should we do when dessert comes with the meal? What about a waitress who pours 14 gallons of dressing on your salad? How do you deal with a hot loaf of bread the waiter delivers before the meal even begins? How can you refuse when the dessert cart rolls up like a Brink’s truck ready to unload its treasures?

Order a-la-carte meals. You may be inclined to order full meals because the cost is less than for the sum of its parts. This group plan is a booby trap because you order more than you need, simply because the price seems attractive. However, the logic is faulty.

The regular price for a roast beef sandwich might be $4.00, but for $5.00 you could get French fries and coleslaw which would normally cost $1.00 each. The package deal makes sense only if you wanted the other items anyway. If not, you are saving money you never would have spent. Most of these extras are high calorie foods, such as French fries. Order just what you want.

Watch the salad dressing. Since salad dressing is high in fat (oil), eating more than you need really boosts the calories. Ask for salad dressing on the side so you are not at the mercy of a heavy handed server. Better yet, leave the salad dressing off completely.

If you need dressing, consider bringing your own bottle of diet dressing. Many people do this and unless you’re at the White House for an Awards Banquet, you shouldn’t be embarrassed.

Watch for hidden calories. Many foods contain calories that are added in subtle ways. These “hidden” calories are important to consider. Think about rich sauces added to meats and vegetables in French restaurants, oils added in Italian restaurants and things breaded and fried in any restaurant. If you cannot guess what is in a dish, ask your server.

Watch Alcohol. Alcohol is loaded with calories and it is easy to consume more than you want in the spirit of being social. This is a real temptation when you sit in the bar area waiting for a table in the restaurant.

When you order alcohol, avoid the hard liquor and sweetened drinks. A jigger of whiskey has 110 calories and a Tom Collins has 180 calories. White wine is a good choice and even better is a white wine spritzer. You could also order club soda or tomato juice.

Alcohol generally has “empty” calories. Its sugar brings calories with little or no nutrition. You can estimate the calories in alcohol by remembering that the following drinks have about 100 calories: 12 oz. of light beer, 8 oz. of regular beer, 3 ½ oz. of wine and 1 shot of liquor.

Beware of the Breadbasket. Keep an eye out for that wondrous basket. It comes when you are hungry and excited about being at the restaurant. You can refuse the breadbasket, but if one arrives against your will, let it rest across the table. If you are still tempted, imagine there is a mousetrap under the napkin that covers the bread!

There are some dieters who actually benefit from the presence of the breadbasket. They are the ones who use a piece of bread (without butter) to take the edge off their hunger, so that they will eat less higher calorie foods later in the meal. You might try this approach, but don’t use it as an excuse to eat lots of bread and then in addition, eat what you would have eaten anyway, once your main meal arrives.

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