There are two approaches to any menu. First, you can order a fattening item, like spaghetti carbonara, but plan ahead by eating lightly throughout the day to ensure you have "budgeted" enough calories and grams of fat. Or, if you forget to pre-plan, you can order the pasta and take half of it home in a doggie bag.
The second approach involves selecting a naturally healthy menu item, such as miso-glazed salmon over a bed of spinach. If you can't spot a similar offering on the menu, sweet-talk the staff into making substitutions or tiny changes to a dish, such as requesting that the shish kebob be made with skinless chicken rather than higher-fat lamb. Remember, most chefs will be happy to accommodate special dietary needs. And don't forget: Size does matter. Because American restaurant portions tend to be Godzilla-like and fats lurk in surprising places, another trick is to eat only as much of your entree as would fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
Also, ask yourself if you really crave dessert. If so, order a low-fat option, such as sorbet, or order something deliciously high-fat, such as crème brûlée, but share it. Finally, exercise regularly, particularly on the day you plan to eat out, as exercise not only burns calories but curbs your appetite.
By heeding these strategies when eating in your favorite restaurants, you can savor Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Italian and American cuisine without saying ciao to lasagna or hasta luego to tostadas.
Skip Chicken Burrito (1,530 calories, 68 grams of fat).
In theory, chicken, beans, and rice are healthy. But restaurants serve them in a football-size portion alongside a glob of sour cream.
Pick Chicken Fajita
Feast on the sizzling chicken, onion, and pepper dish for just 330 calories and 11 grams of fat. Half a tortilla adds another 200 calories.
Even healthier Chicken Soft Taco
One contains 210 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Watch out for Tortilla Chips
Just 15 of these triangles pack 192 calories and 10 grams of fat.
Skip Shrimp Tempura Roll (544 calories, 13 grams of fat).
The word "tempura" is code for battered and deep-fried.
Pick Miso Soup, a Salmon-Avocado Roll, and a Cucumber Roll (525 calories, 12 grams of fat).
Salmon's omega-3 fatty acids and the avocado's monounsaturated fats both protect your heart.
Even healthier Salmon Sashimi
Subbing this rice-free choice for a roll will save you 140 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Watch out for Spicy Sauce
A tablespoon of this condiment has 99 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Skip Chicken Parmesan (1,340 calories, 78 grams of fat).
Chicken is lean, but not when it's fried and smothered in cheese.
Pick Minestrone (100 calories, 1 gram of fat).
Order it with a half serving of spaghetti marinara (410 calories, 8 grams of fat). Research shows that a soup starter can help curb your appetite— and your calorie intake.
Even healthier Pasta Primavera with Red Sauce
Request the dish with extra vegetables.
Watch out for Garlic Bread
Two small slices contain 273 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Skip Kung Pao Chicken (1,620 calories, 76 grams of fat).
One serving has more fat than two Big Macs and a side of fries.
Pick Szechuan Shrimp of Shrimp and Garlic Sauce
(465 calories, 10 grams of fat for half a serving).
Because most of the oil and sugar is found in the sauce, ask for it on the side and drizzle a little over the top.
Even healthier Steamed Chicken and Broccoli
This satisfying dish has just 280 calories and 12 grams of fat.
Watch out for Egg Rolls
Hold this fried extra to save 190 calories.