What to do when dining out is a challenge dieters know well. It’s easy to control ingredients and portion sizes at home, but not nearly as easy when dining out.

Harvard Health Publishing says the average American eats out about five times a week, and that means figuring out how to stick to diets. Rest assured there are plenty of ways to socialize and enjoy meals away from home without compromising a diet.

• Do your research. Many establishments post their menus online and dieters can use that to their advantage. Prior to booking a reservation, review a restaurant’s menu online to ensure there’s something on there that won’t compromise your diet. If you need further clarification, call the restaurant and see if substitutions can be made.

• Have a go-to dish. Many restaurants offer at least one diet-friendly item like a Cobb salad. Dieters can choose a go-to healthy dish that won’t compromise their meals and then look for it when dining out.

• Drink water. Don’t drink your calories. Alcoholic beverages or sweetened soft drinks can be heavy in calories. Instead of using your calorie allotment on liquids, save these indulgences for food.

• Look for healthy cooking methods. Scan the menu for foods that are steamed, grilled, baked, and stir-fried. These cooking methods generally use very little oil or butter. Steer clear of heavy gravies or cream-based sauces as well. If there is a sauce, ask for it on the side.

• Choose the right food order. According to, eat protein first, followed by vegetables, and leave carbohydrates for last. The protein and vegetables should slow down digestion, leaving you feeling fuller, faster. That means you’ll be less likely to overindulge on bread, potatoes or a sugary dessert.

• Be forthright with dietary needs. Share with your server or party host what you can and cannot eat. Most establishments or individuals are happy to help customers stick to a particular diet. You’re not being “a pain” or “picky” by being frank about what you need to eat to be healthy.

• Check out favorite dishes. You may not know what you’re eating unless you investigate. U.S. federal law now requires all restaurants with more than 20 locations to provide nutritional information for menu items. Search CalorieKing for data on foods from hundreds of popular nationwide chains.

• Snack before you leave home. Don’t arrive at a restaurant feeling famished. Eat a small snack before leaving home or bring a few safe items you can use as backups so you’ll have something to eat if the menu does not have much healthy fare.

Dieters can employ various strategies to stick to their diets while dining out.

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