Dining out can be a special treat, and there are definitely occasionsâ€”like birthdays and anniversariesâ€”when you should certainly allow yourself to splurge on a luxurious meal without worrying about calories or fat grams.
On the other hand, if you hit the restaurant scene on a regular basis and are looking for diet-friendly suggestions, here are some smart ordering strategies for a few of the most popular cuisines.
Kick off your meal with a plate of grilled calamari, an order of mussels marinara, or a simple salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette. For your entrÃ©e, best bets are grilled, broiled, or roasted chicken or seafood (plain or served with any tomato-based sauce).
One of my favorite Italian restaurants in New York serves a phenomenal whole roasted branzino (European sea bass), which I almost always order-but look for salmon, sole, scallops, and shrimp on most any Italian menu. Enjoy with roasted or steamed veggies on the side. Or, have a bowl of cioppino, a delicious tomato-based fish stew.
If you can’t do Italian without pasta, I suggest ordering an entrÃ©e portion loaded with chicken or seafood and vegetables tossed with marinara sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
The chicken or shrimp fajita plate is one staple order you can always fall back on. Use 1 to 2 tortillas instead of the whole stack, and load on the shrimp or chicken, peppers and onions, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. Choose just one high-cal “extra”, like cheese, sour cream, or guac, and use sparingly.
More great options include chicken or grilled fish soft tacos (same topping guidelines as above), grilled shrimp with rice and black beans, or a bowl of chicken tortilla soup (be sure to go easy on the sour cream and cheese garnishes).
It is possible to enjoy a steakhouse dinner without busting your gut! For a smart app, choose the shrimp cocktail. ThisÂ super lean protein will start to fill you up while you wait for your entrÃ©e to arrive.
As for your main dish, order a lean steakâ€”filet mignon, sirloin, or flank are three lower-fat choices. And make sure you request that your steak be prepared without butter. If you’d rather enjoy some prime seafood, treat yourself to a steamed lobster tail or crab legs (skip the drawn butter and ask for lemon wedges and cocktail sauce for dipping). Round out your meal with a plain baked potato and steamed or sautÃ©ed spinach, broccoli, asparagus, or other veggies.
Wherever you choose to dine, close out the meal with a soothing cup of tea and enjoy a few more minutes of good company!