6 proven ways to avoid high-caloric restaurant traps

With so many restaurant tricks that pad your waistline and shrink your wallet, you'll want to check out these tips to avoid the pitfalls that restaurateurs use to bait you.

6 proven ways to avoid high-caloric restaurant traps

1. Skip the romantic atmosphere

It's not something any restaurateur is going to admit, but the reason they keep the lights low and play soft music is that they know this atmosphere encourages you to eat slower for a longer amount of time.

  • It also makes you more likely to order dessert and another drink. How do they know? Research proves it.

2. Double up on appetizers

Your waiter will roll his eyes, because he wants you to order one of those oversized entrées.

  • However, you can often trim back on calories — and cost too — if you order two appetizers for dinner and skip the entrée altogether — particularly if the restaurant has a nice selection of seafood- and vegetable-based starters. Just say nada to anything fried.

3. Keep your salad simple

Restaurant managers can't help themselves. They take a pleasantly simple offering like veggie salad and have to pile on the calorie-laden (and more expensive) extras — such as cheese, salami, spicy ham, croutons and mayo-based dressing.

  • By all means order a salad, but insist on vegetables only.

4. Skip the cocktail

What's the first thing the waiter wants to bring you in a sit-down restaurant? A cocktail, wine or beer, of course.

  • Waiters know instinctively what was confirmed in a study in England — people who have an alcoholic drink before dinner tend to eat more.
  • The study found that men who drank a glass of beer 30 minutes before a meal ate more during the meal than men who consumed a non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Those who drank alcohol also ate more fatty and salty foods and felt hungrier after the meal than men who didn't have alcohol.
  • So if you're trying to control your weight, have your alcohol after your meal rather than before.

5. Check fast-food calories on the Web

Many of the highly hyped meals at fast-food restaurants are little more than a heaping helping of fat and calories. You won't be able to tell this by reading that menu over the service counter, of course.

If you like the convenience of fast food but also want to keep your arteries free and clear, here's the best way to find the most healthful foods: go to the Internet site of each chain store you frequent and click your way to the nutritional breakdowns for each offering.

  • You'll quickly discover that the French fries, hamburgers and mayo-based sauces are a shocking nutritional minefield.
  • You'll see the wisdom of ordering smaller portions and heart-healthy sandwiches.

6. Keep your coffee order simple

That pricey café wants you to order your brew in as fancy a form as possible.

  • Not only does this drive up the tab for each visit, but it also stacks on hundreds of calories — from the whole milk, whipped cream, sugar and syrups.
  • A regular cuppa joe made from good beans and with a dash of skim milk is heaven in itself, so protect your wallet and your arteries by keeping things simple.
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