Simple strategies for dining out:
Start off right. Begin your meal with a nice warm broth-based soup, preferably one with plenty of vegetables. This is a great low-cal, nutritious way to take the edge off of your appetite so you will consume fewer calories in the main course.
Downsize. Try an appetizer portion of your favorite entrée. In most restaurants, this represents the proper portion size. You should still steer clear of heavy sauces and fried items.
Be choosy. Instead of an alcoholic beverage, appetizer, bread and dessert, select only one or two.
Split an entrée with a friend. It’s best to stick to a lean protein and vegetable, and substitute a starchy side like mashed potatoes for an extra veggie.
Beware of preparation methods. Chefs like to use added oil and butter and lots of salt to enhance flavor. Don’t be shy about asking for your dish to be prepared without added oil or butter. Seemingly healthy dishes such as sautéed eggplant can actually be a diet saboteur. So can some vegetables (leafy greens included) that soak up extra oils, thus piling on the fat and calories. Ask for olive oil on the side and drizzle sparingly. As a rule of thumb, order steamed vegetables instead of sautéed when available to avoid unwanted grease.
Tips for noshing at cocktail parties:
When perusing the buffet table, stick to antipasti, vegetables and lean proteins (carved meats, hold the bun). Beware of pasta dishes (usually very saucy), casseroles, fried or breaded items. It may be on a cocktail-sized plate, but a spoon or two of a few of these sides can quickly pile on more fat and calories than chocolate cake!
Select super low cal salsa and use veggies to dip instead of chips.
Shrimp cocktail is a great option. It’s low in saturated fat and calories, and is loaded with belly-filling protein. An added bonus: shrimp contains zinc, which enhances immune function, critical during the height of cold and flu season.
Enjoy one to two ounces of cheese (approximately four to six cubes) and a little fruit instead of crackers.
Fill your plate with crudités (a fancy word for cut-up vegetables). A little ranch dressing is even okay; it helps with the absorption of some of the vitamins in the veggies.
Try chicken satay or kabobs.
Some lower-calorie cocktail options: 5-6 ounces of red or white wine; a light beer or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor are each 100-120 calories. A few other fun and low-cal drinks: green apple martini (about 150 calories; go lighter on the syrup to further slash calories); infused vodkas have added flavor with no added calories; try on the rocks or mixed with club soda; a five-ounce bloody mary (120 calories); champagne (100 calories) or a mimosa (75 calories); a hot toddy made with 1 1/2 ounces of brandy, water, lemon, cinnamon stick, a touch of honey.
Bottom line: the holidays give us countless reasons to overindulge, but remember that our stomachs can hold more than we need. Listen to your body and stop when you are satisfied. As always, choose one indulgence, not all of them. If you suddenly find yourself on the dark side, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track for your next meal and back in your Pilates or yoga classes!