Avocado SaladYes, really!  It’s the beginning of another year and many of us have added pounds over the holidays that we want to get off, or we’re just ready for a fresh start.  A recent study at the University of Texas at Austin enrolled 35 healthy perimenopausal women (40-59) who dine out frequently in a six-week program designed to help them dine out more healthfully.  Nearly 70% of the women lost weight (about four pounds).  The women reduced their daily calorie intake by about 300, eating less when eating out and at home.  Here are some tips on how you can shed that unwanted holiday weight while continuing to enjoy nights out at your favorite local restaurants:

Mentally Pre-Order – Go online to the restaurant you plan to dine at and read the menu ahead of time to plan your meal.  Almost all restaurants offer low calorie and/or low fat options.  This way you won’t be in a hurry and make the wrong choices when you are sitting at the table distracted by friends or family.

Don’t Order Too Much –   Even if a food is healthy, like almonds or avocados, they still hold a lot of calories.  If you choose to put avocado in your salad, for example, skip the almonds and the oil. Or, if you are eating Mexican, skip the refried beans and rice and go for the protein.  Any time you eat more of one food than your body needs – yes, even healthy foods – the excess goes right to your fat cells.  Restaurant meals often include too much of one thing.  Consider ordering an appetizer or a side salad instead of a full entrée size.  Restaurants are very flexible today about making a menu item to your specifications.

Slow Down!! – Overeating can happen when you are distracted.  You wolf down your food and can’t even remember eating it or what it tasted like.  If you are distracted during a meal, sit back, put your fork down and take a break.  Make yourself enjoy the flavor and texture of the food and you’ll eat less.

Portion Control—American restaurants want the customer to feel like they are getting value, so they pile on the food, sometimes doubling or tripling the amount you would normally eat at home.  If your order is huge, immediately divide it in half and push the food to the other side of the plate.  Or, better yet, ask your server to box up half before the entrée even comes out of the kitchen.  Your stomach will never know the difference and you’ll only take in half the calories.

These easy tips will go a long way in keeping you on the straight and narrow to losing weight while continuing to enjoy dining out.