Dining out while eating right has always been a challenge for me. Looking at a menu can often be daunting, especially when, at first glance, everything seems to be unhealthy. But it turns out that restaurants are actually very accommodating, and the options on the menu are not always the only things available.

For example, at an Italian restaurant a few months back, I really wanted a pasta dish, but didn’t see whole-wheat pasta listed anywhere. I asked the waiter if there was any available and to my delight he said, “Sure, we have a whole-wheat penne tonight.” He also told me that I could substitute the whole-wheat penne for any dish on the menu. I was pleasantly surprised and ordered whole-wheat pasta with shrimp and broccoli in a garlic olive oil sauce.

At another restaurant one evening, I ordered an Alaskan halibut that came with rice. But all I had to do was ask if I could substitute vegetables for the rice at the same price, and I was promptly told yes!

I’ve learned over the past several months that restaurants are happy to oblige to specific food requests, and that if you don’t see something on the menu, all you have to do is ask. More often than not, there is a healthier option available if you just substitute, add, or revise. The lesson learned: Don’t be shy and speak up!

Our 2012 Weight Loss Diary writer, Yasmin, is a 33-year-old web content producer who is looking to get healthy and love her body! Follow along on her year-long weight loss journey!

Who’s helping Yasmin? Tiara Coaching Life coach Alison Miller, Ph.D, nutritionist Keri Gans, R.D, and Equinox personal trainer Stephanie Pipia.

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