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Simple Plans for Social Eating and Travel

It's one thing to stick with your diet regimen when you're at home, in control of the contents of your refrigerator and your portion sizes. But what about going out to dinner with friends? Worse, how do you stay on track when your dream vacation has you seated by the dessert cart at every meal?

Eating right when you're out of your comfort zone can actually be easier than when you are at home, so long as you think smart and plan ahead. Focus on these simple tips to help you enjoy your dinners out on the town without compromising your weight loss goals.Simple Plans

Incorporate meals out like any others. Don't skip meals beforehand. Plan. Don't be afraid to call ahead and find out what the specials are going to be and figure out a couple of choices. If that's not an option, ask someone with whom you're comfortable sharing your dietary concerns to help you. Tell him or her what foods you can eat (or what you cannot eat) and ask the person to fill a plate for you. Or second, walk up to the buffet table(s) beforehand with no plate. Just take a casual stroll around and see which foods are being served. Then decide if you would like to ask someone else to place your selections on a plate for you or if you would prefer to get them yourself.

Eat slowly. Not only will this help with your digestion, it slows your eating down so that you notice sooner when you are full. Set your eating utensils down while you chew. Have a sip of water between bites.

Have fun along the way

Eating out is a way of building relationships, to enjoy the company of others. Unfortunately, for those of us looking to cut back on what and how much we eat, this can make previously enjoyable dinner dates a dreaded and avoided task. It doesn't have to be this way. Opt for a restaurant with salads and low-fat menu choices instead of a place with all deep-fried batter-dipped menu items and heavy desserts.

Another option is to choose an old favourite and split it with a partner. This way, you won't feel deprived and your portion size will automatically be limited. Not only will your waistlines be smaller, but so will your bills!

Avoid temptation

There is no law that says you must have a basket of bread, butter and oil before a meal out. If it is on your table when you are seated, request that it be brought back to the kitchen.

Set yourself up for success when you order by requesting they leave off the oils and sauces. Request that your meat and vegetables be steamed, not fried. Order a salad (with light or no dressing, on the side) or side of veggies instead of fries or mashed potatoes.

It's all in the portions

Restaurant portions are significantly larger than actual portion sizes; a half-size will more than adequately replace your normal meal size. Most restaurants offer half-sizes (at smaller prices). If these are not listed on the menu, just ask, and your request will more than likely be accommodated. Alternately, you can request your doggie bag in advance. If they don't offer to package half your meal for you, decide for yourself (before you begin eating) what an appropriate portion size is and wrap up the remainder.

There's no rule that you must order your meal from the entrée list. Peruse the appetizer menu for attractive (and smaller) options. You can also create a delicious and unique meal by combining various side dishes.

Drink plenty of water before you leave for the restaurant, and while you wait for the food to arrive. This will help fill you up and prevent hunger-inspired indulgences.

Request your salad (and/or soup, if it's not creamy) be brought out first, and dig in. By the time your food arrives, you should be able to more rationally determine what portion sizes are appropriate, and if anything needs to be avoided.

Do not order dessert until you are completely finished with your meal. You might be too full to eat dessert and remember, even if everyone is splurging on the dessert menu, you don't have to join in just to be part of the "gang." Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea to end your meal. Or ask someone to split a dessert with you if there is something you really want.

Distract yourself

Vacations should be a time to indulge oneself and have fun. Though it does lead to eating out more often, it also removes many of the day's temptations. For example, you won't be wandering over to the kitchen when you're bored, or overindulging at the grocery store and then feeling "obligated" to eat what you've bought.

Spend time in the pool, on the sand, and at the shops, not at the restaurants. Most vacation hot spots are ideal for eating on the go; you can pick up a small meal from a roadside vendor and eat it while walking the boardwalk and enjoying the sights and sounds.

Don't make food about suffering. If the smell of saltwater taffy engulfs you, treat yourself-to one. Having a small amount will indulge your craving without compromising your diet.

Try making a rule like, "If I eat, I need to enjoy a fun activity, too: a walk, bike ride, swim, tennis, putt-putt, etc." Then coordinate daily "pairings" or events with meal planning. Life, including vacations, does not have to be all about food. Nor does it have to focus on food.

Don't stress out

With the right approach, eating out can be a pleasurable experience. Remember, a successful diet is a lifelong lifestyle modification. You need to be able to incorporate healthful eating out activities into your routine.

Vacations and meals out are intended to be pleasurable. If you do go a little overboard, it's important not to beat yourself up over it. Forgive yourself and get on with life. Simply use that experience to learn where you can improve the next time you are in that situation and then add some extra activities to your schedule. Swim some laps. Walk or jog. Leave your wallet in the trunk and go to a mall for a shop-walk. Take a tour. Visit a museum. Enjoy a park and feed the ducks. Just get out, focus on something else and enjoy life.

I hope you enjoy this article. More can be found in my FREE ezine

Fran Watson"Expert Author"


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