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Eating out can be a potential hazard for any dieter. A week of progress can be overturned in one fell swoop. Unless, that is, you stick to the golden rules of eating out.

You look down at the menu and gasp, eyes wide open in horror.

There’s nothing on there that even resembles the chicken salad you usually have for dinner and every dish is a potential diet-wrecker. Ultra-high in calories, laden with carbohydrate and swimming in fat. What do you do?

You can’t not eat. Not only are you starving hungry, but you’re in company, and just sipping from your glass of tap water would look weird. Likewise you really don’t want to undo the weeks and weeks of hard dieting all for the sake of one meal out.

Fortunately, there are ways you can develop the tools needed to overcome situations like this.

Eating out the right way is all about two things – planning before you head out, and when that isn’t an option, learning what to do at a moment’s notice to change a potential dieting disaster into a triumph.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to dine out the right way, starting with before you even leave the house.

Pre-Restaurant Tactics

Check the Menu

If you know where you’re going, this is an easy one. Once your table’s been booked, or even before then, when you’re deciding where to go, have a look at the menus. If you’re deciding on a location, stop by a few of the potential restaurants before you book, or take a look at the menus before you book, to choose the one with the best options.

Even if someone else is making the call on where you’re going, it’s worth checking it out first. Download the restaurant’s menu from their website, and make the choice on what you’ll eat before you get there. It’s so easy to choose the thing you fancy the most when you’re sitting at the table, hungry and ready to eat, rather than the one that’s best for you.

Have one or two backup dishes too, in case your first choice isn’t available.

Follow a Flexible Dieting Schedule

A flexible diet is one that doesn’t dictate exactly what you eat and when.

While a typical bodybuilding style plan, or one taken from a magazine might say you must eat one chicken, breast, 50 grams of brown rice, with broccoli and green beans at 7:30 every evening, a flexible diet is one that simply counts calories, and preferable macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You can then eat whatever foods you like to fit those numbers, be it protein from fish, meat or dairy, carbs from rice, vegetables, potatoes, fries, or fat from any number of foods.

The great thing about flexible dieting is that no food is off limits, provided you fit it into your daily plan.

Train

If you’re trained hard in the day, you’re less likely to binge at night, knowing you’ve put the effort in earlier on. Your body may also use those potential extra calories and carbs to aid with recovery and top up your depleted glycogen stores, rather than storing them and converting them to fat if you’ve just been sitting on the couch all day.

Tweak Your Other Meals

If you do think you’re likely to indulge a little at dinner, then change your other meals to accommodate this. Stick to mainly protein-based foods and vegetables for the rest of the day so you don’t go wildly over your calorie intake later on.

Base your other meals around lean meat and fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products and protein shakes, as well as green and fibrous veggies and low-sugar fruits such as berries.

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