Sharing an entrée is smart because most portions are two to three times as big as they should be, says Susan Roberts, PhD, a nutrition scientist at Tufts University in Boston and the author of the restaurant study. Or try the "one fewer" trick, says Hope Warshaw, RD, author of Eat Out, Eat Right: for four people, order three dishes and a side saladand split everything.
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Downsize your plate
Order an appetizer, soup, and/or salad as your main dish. Taking just a few bites of several different flavors helps you feel satisfied, experts say.
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Grill your waiter
Ask him if sides are included in the total calorie count. If not, be sure to factor them in. "Many times we found that side dishes had more calories than the actual entrée," Roberts says.
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Try drinking a full glass of water between glasses of wine. The water fills you up, says Mitzi Dulan, RD, co-author of The All-Pro Diet, and will cut down on how many 120-calorie glasses of wine you drink.
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Cut the grease
Instead of sautéed foods, opt for grilled. Sautées like stir-fried dishes or chicken cacciatore are calorie traps because the recipes require lots of oil, which chefs may use liberally. "When it's 120 calories per tablespoon, it matters," Roberts says.
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Be a prima donna
If the food isn't good, kindly send it back. "Minding calories is like managing money," Dulan says, so don't waste yours on mediocre food. If the entrée is fine, but you know the dessert rocks, just poke at the penne so you can enjoy the tiramisu later.
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