Tips for Eating Out on The South Beach Diet

a woman eating salad
Enjoying a salad before your meal will help you stay on-plan when eating out on The South Beach diet. Image: © [2009] Jupiterimages Corporation

Eating out on The South Beach Diet is easier than you might think. With a few simple guidelines, you can make smart restaurant choices for all phases of the plan. Here are some simple tips for eating out on The South Beach Diet:

Know Your Stuff

Know the allowable foods for your particular phase of The South Beach Diet backward and forwards so you won't be overwhelmed by the menu and the easy availability of a wide variety of foods at the restaurant.

Print out or photocopy the allowed foods and foods to be avoided lists and take them with you to refer to if you don't know them by heart.

Bye, Bye Breadie

If the restaurant provides appetizer dinner rolls this can spell South Beach Diet-disaster, particularly on Phase 1. Ask the server to remove the off-plan food from the table. Avoid the temptation to think, "It's free. I really should eat it." because it may be free to your wallet, but not "free" for your waistline!

Preparation is Key

Lean protein is an important part of The South Beach Diet. Keep your beef or meat choices in check by requesting healthy cooking methods -- grilling, baking, roasting, broiling or boiling. If you are unsure about anything on the menu, request details about preparation methods or extra ingredients. Don't be afraid to sound "picky" and ask a lot of questions -- that's what it takes to stay true to The South Beach Diet plan.

Have a Smarter Starter

Whether you're following The South Beach Diet, or you just want to watch your weight, in general, having a salad or cup of soup as an appetizer is a great weight loss aid both at home and when dining out. These starters curb your appetite and prevent overeating.

Do Your Homework

Ask your favorite eateries for a take-out menu as you leave after your next visit.

Or, call and ask them to fax you the full menu or search online for their Web site. Keep your favorite menus close to the phone if you order in, or by the door or coat closet to review on your way out to the restaurant. Highlight the best "South Beach Diet-friendly" options for easy reference. Better still, type up your own master menu on your computer with a simple list of your best choices at each of your favorite eateries (That way you won't be tempted by the off-limits items on the real menu!).

Veg Out

Many vegetables are acceptable in all phases of The South Beach Diet, but just as in the case of meats, preparation method does make a difference. Request vegetables be prepared "plain" as they're likely to contain butter or sauce if you don't. Watch out for high-fat menu buzz words like cream sauce, butter, oil, breaded, au gratin and batter-dipped.

Go Halves

No matter what diet you're following, or if you just want to cut calories, restaurant portions can make or break your weight-loss efforts because they're almost always more than what a normal serving should be.

Keep temptation at bay and practice instant portion control by asking the server to wrap up half your meal before you start eating. If you prefer, ask to be served lunch-sized portions at dinner. Split take-out meals with a buddy or put half into plastic containers and stash in the fridge before you start eating.

Be Savvy About Snacking

Don't forget that snacks are not only allowed on The South Beach Diet, they're required. Dr. Agatston included them on The South Beach Diet plan for a very important reason: Eating healthful snacks between meals helps level out your blood sugar and keeps your metabolism going strong. Getting in your snack a while before your meal will help prevent overeating when you get to the restaurant.

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