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    Do you have any tips for sticking to my diet when I go to a restaurant?

    With a little planning, you can enjoy restaurant dining while successfully adhering to your weight loss plan. Try these success strategies:

    Choose a restaurant that you know serves the type of food you can eat. Avoid buffets; studies show that people tend to eat more when faced with a large variety of food choices.

    When you get to the restaurant, do not look at the menu (menus are designed to tempt you). Plan in advance what you will order. Tell the server what you want, such as baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled chicken breast or fish without oil or sauces. Ask for steamed vegetables. If ordering lobster, crab or shrimp ask for lemon and no butter. Order fresh fruit or tomato slices instead of potatoes or rice. Have fresh fruit for dessert.

    When ordering Chinese food and other Asian food, specify that you want your food cooked without oil.

    When served, judge the portion size of your foods. Ask for a "take out" container to be brought with your meal and immediately (before eating) take the "extra" food off your plate. Take the food home to eat later or give it to someone else to take home, or leave the box on the table.

    Ask to have the bread basket removed from your table. If your dining companions want the bread basket on the table, be sure it is placed out of your reach -- all the way across the table. If it gets placed near you, ask that it be moved.

    Keep your water glass full and sip often. It will help you feel "full" and will keep your hands busy.

    Order naturally sparkling water or no-sugar iced tea with a slice of lemon instead of wine or other alcoholic beverages.

    "Hold" the salad dressing and oil. Take along your "legal" dressing in a small plastic container or ask for lemon or vinegar with fresh herbs to dress your salad. Beware of "diet" dressings that are high in sugar/ carbohydrates even though they may be low in fat.

    Do not "taste" or sample your dining companions' food. If offered, politely say "no thank you". Remember that "sips" and "bites" do count and add up; they may also tempt you to lower your resolve to stick to your eating plan.

    Be sure to eat your breakfast and mid-morning snack so you won't be overly hungry at lunchtime. Just before leaving for the restaurant, drink a large amount of water -- it will help to fill you up so you are less hungry.

    Will there be any "diet saboteurs" dining with you? If so, plan what you'll say to them if they try to tempt you to go off your program. Remind yourself that you don't owe them an explanation and do not need to defend your food choices. Calmly say "No thank you" (over and over if necessary!) when they try to talk you into tempting situations. They will be less likely to make a big deal out of your food choices if you don't, so don't sit there and bemoan the fact that you're on a "diet".

    On an index card, write down the top three reasons you want to lose weight. (At Lean for Life we call these your Personal Motivators.) Read your card before going to the restaurant to remind yourself of why you want to stick to your program. In fact, take your card with you and excuse yourself to go read it when you get to the restaurant and any time during the meal that you feel tempted to go off your program.

    Keep a lively conversation going throughout the meal so that you are less focused on food and more focused on enjoying the company of your friends.