Here is the Diet Detective's dining out “Cheat Sheet.”
Do ask to have your fish or poultry grilled, poached or baked, even if it's not listed as an option on the menu.
Do get all dressings, butter, sour cream and sauces on the side.
Do eat slowly and take small bites. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register feelings of fullness.
Do order a basic salad as an appetizer. Studies show you'll eat less.
Do say no to the bread basket just one large slice of bread with butter can add up to 275 calories.
Do visualize smaller portions. When that pasta comes on a satellite-size platter, for example, picture how it would fill up two of your dinner plates at home.
Do say no to more than two drinks of alcohol; they're high in calories. Try for wine, beer or Champagne rather than hard liquor.
Do skip the monster cocktails. Some chains serve theirs in glasses that hold up to 18 ounces; a margarita that size may contain up to 800 calories more than a meal's worth.
Do call the restaurant ahead of time to find out if healthier options are available, and/or check out their website. You can probably even place a special order in advance. If no healthy options are available, almost every restaurant will let you order grilled chicken, fish or lean meat with some type of vegetable or salad.
Do dine at an earlier or later time; restaurants will be more open to taking special orders if you eat during off-peak dining hours.
Do note that it's harder to make the “right” choices when dining out with a group of friends don't give in to “peer pressure.”
Do avoid snacking on peanuts or other bar treats to pass the time while waiting for your dining companions. Those snacks just add calories.
Do try to have a healthy snack before going out to eat, especially if you are starving. Make it something that's high in fiber, such as an apple or even a bowl of cereal.
Do avoid price-fixed menus; they encourage you to overeat high-calorie foods.
Do drink water before and during your meal it will fill up your stomach a little.
Do say no to large portions: If you know that the restaurant serves huge portions, don't try to be a “diet hero” by assuming you will not eat everything on your plate. Just ask the server to wrap up half your portion in a takeout box.
Do say no to the fries and pasta. Replace them with a healthy portion of broccoli steamed with garlic or another type of vegetable or salad.
Do read the menu. Look for any of the following: baked, grilled, broiled, poached or steamed.
Do say no to: a la mode (with ice cream on the side), au gratin (covered with cheese), battered, bisque, breaded, buttered, cheese sauce, creamy or rich, crispy, deep-fried, deluxe, fried, hollandaise (sauce made with butter, egg yolks, and wine), jumbo, nuts, scalloped, sautéed (unless you make a special request for it to be prepared in a small amount of oil) and tempura.
Caribbean and African
Look for: Poached, steamed or grilled dishes, stews or curries (without coconut or coconut milk)
Look out for: Fried foods, coconut, peanuts, cream, puddings, fritters
Best bet: Broiled fillet of red snapper or jerk chicken without sauce
Look for: Stir-fried, simmered, steamed or roasted foods, bean curd (not fried), tomato sauce, light sauce, oyster sauce, brown rice
Look out for: Fried, crispy or breaded foods, eggs, peanuts or cashews, hoisin sauce, fruit, sweet-and-sour sauce, soy or teriyaki sauce (high in sodium), lobster sauce
Best bet: Steamed chicken, fish or tofu with vegetables, sauce on the side
Indian, Thai or Vietnamese
Look for: Stir-fried, steamed or simmered foods, soup (without coconut milk), kebabs, biryani (without nuts), curried vegetables
Look out for: Crispy or fried items, coconut, cream
Best bet: Tandori or tikka (grilled, skewered Indian dish), or any steamed fish with vegetables
Look for: Marinara, primavera, or arrabiata sauces, roasted, grilled or steamed foods, thin-crust pizza, 100 percent whole-grain pasta (as a main course, not a side), tomatoes
Look out for: Foods that are fried, stuffed or prepared parmigiana-style, Alfredo, white or carbonara sauces, cheese
Best bet: Pasta with a tomato-based sauce, chicken or fish prepared without oil
Look for: Broiled, grilled or steamed items, sushi, sashimi, soup, hijiki, oshitashi
Look out for: Fried or battered foods, soy, teriyaki or tamari sauces (high in sodium), tempura, duck, cream cheese or mayo (in sushi), eel, fish roe
Best bets: Vegetable or fish sushi rolls (not fried), or tuna nigiri
Look for: Grilled items (such as fajitas), simmered, shredded or minced items, soft tortillas/soft tacos, beans, enchilada sauce, salsa
Look out for: Deep-fried foods, tacos, taco salad, cheese, chips, guacamole, nachos, huevos, sour cream, bunuelos
Best bet: Char-grilled chicken burrito or fajita (dry/no oil) with salsa, no cheese
Look for: Grilled or baked foods or meats prepared au jus, sirloin, filet, chicken, shrimp
Look out for: Battered or fried foods, béarnaise or hollandaise sauces, New York strip, T-bone, porterhouse or rib-eye steaks, prime rib, onion rings
Best bet: Filet mignon prepared without oil with a small baked potato and salad on the side