If your date asks you to suggest a place to eat, check out menus online first so you can scout out the healthier options. Sushi, Mediterranean, and Spanish tapas places are typically full of healthy, delightful, and well-portioned farewhile sports bars, ethnic cuisine, and heavy French food might make it more difficult to find the best choices. Ambiance matters too: Research has shown that eating outdoors or in lots of bright lights can help you eat less, perhaps because you're paying more attention to your date and the pleasant surroundings. If you get stuck in a total fattening zonea Super Bowl party or an all-you-can-eat buffet, for examplethen try everything but don't fill your plate with any one thing.
Spoiling your appetite just a little bit is a good thing: You will most likely be going to a restaurant with lots of fattening choices, starting with a tempting bread basket. But if you eat a 200-calorie, high-protein snacksuch as edamame, whole-grain pita with hummus, a packaged veggie burger, or a handful of nutsright before leaving the house (or at most, no more than three to four hours earlier), you should be able to tear off just a small chunk of bread, dip it in some heart-healthy olive oil, and push the rest aside.
If you decide to have a drink or two (no more than that, though!), choose a clear-liquor cocktail like a vodka tonic or my SkinnyGirl Margaritaclear tequila on the rocks with lime and a splash of citrus liqueur. Typically, darker liquor has a higher sugar content; plus, many people say they trigger worse hangovers the next day, provoking greasy eating binges.
Appetizers scare most people who are watching their weight, but to me, they're like a gift: Most are already portioned for you (skip the sampler plate!), so overindulging is kept to a minimum. Still, it doesn't hurt to order something with a vegetable base, like a mixed greens salad or a non-cream soup.
Restaurant entrees are way too large in this country: It's a fact that if you eat out more often, you'll gain weightunless you bundle up your leftovers or make smarter food choices. I can usually get around this predicament, however, by ordering a second decadent appetizer instead of an entree. At most restaurants, you'll be able to choose small, single-serving plates such as crab cakes, grilled calamari, mini–burgers, or chicken sate.
If your date suggests dessert, choose a cake with fruity toppings to share. Have a few bites, but aim for more of the fruit and cream and less of the cake. Or suggest foregoing dessert at the restaurant for an evening stroll with some coffee or ice cream from a nearby shop: You'll probably have a few lower-calorie options there, and at least you're getting some exercise!
Research shows that the more often you eat out, the more likely you are to become overweightbut by following these guidelines, there's no reason you should limit your social life. Mixing up your dating schedule with activities that aren't centered around a dinner table or a bar is another way to control your calories: Go bowling, walk in the park, see a band, or take a healthy cooking class. And when a dinner date is on your schedule, eat sensibly throughout the daywith well-balanced, protein- and fiber-rich mealsto prevent binging at or after the restaurant. Remember: Food should always come second to great conversation and company.