The Dining Out Dilemma

Many of us enjoy the prospect of eating out because we anticipate eating foods we don’t normally eat at home – sometimes foods that don’t pack much nutritional value, like french fries, desserts, or that mound of pasta alfredo you just can’t resist. Mayo Clinic says it’s okay to indulge once in a while, but if you eat out often, it’s wise to make healthier choices part of your dining experience. Here are some tips from Mayo Clinic to help you eat out more healthfully and limit calories while enjoying your favorite foods:

• Eat only half of your favorite food and save the other half for the next day. That way, you consume only half the calories and get to enjoy the food more than just once. Plus, you get more for your money by turning one meal into two.

• Share a dish with your dining companion (you'll save money that way too!).

• Limit foods that add extra calories, such as appetizers, bread, side dishes or high-calorie beverages. These can be sources of unwanted fat, salt and sugar.

• Look for ways to make your favorite foods healthier. For example, if your favorite dish comes with a rich sauce, you might ask for the sauce on the side. That way, you can control how much of it you eat.

• If you know that you'll be eating out and consuming extra calories, increase your exercise for that day.

Challenge yourself to find new healthy favorites, too. An entree of perfectly cooked fish and vegetables prepared by a skilled chef can be a real treat. Finally, try to focus on enjoying the full experience, not just the food — the atmosphere, the social scene and the pleasure of being waited on. Over time, you may find that your favorite foods aren't the real draw of dining out, and you can enjoy yourself while sticking to your healthy-eating plan.