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6 tips for a healthy dinner out with friends

You can eat healthy and feel good about your order if you follow these tips!
/ Source: TODAY

Your smart phone is buzzing away with calendar notifications for dinners here and social events there and you’re stressing about how to stay on the healthy track. Or even worse, wondering if you should cancel your plans! Don’t do the latter. You can eat healthy and feel good about your order if you follow these tips (no counting calories!):

1. Don't go to dinner hungry.

Yep, throw mom’s advice about ruining your appetite to the curb. About an hour to an hour and a half before you go out, eat something to cut your hunger so you don’t get to the restaurant and dive head first into the breadbasket.

Protein works like a charm here. A few pieces of a healthy beef jerky, a hard-boiled egg with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, two slices of turkey or a Greek yogurt with 10 almonds all work.

2. Order first!

When the waiter comes to the table, jump in first with your order. You’ll be surprised at how ordering something healthy first can cause others at the table to follow your lead. You’ve probably even witnessed this before: “You ordered the poached fish and veggies, I guess I won’t have the fried clams and fries, I’ll have the grilled salmon please.”

Out for sushi with friends? Instead of ordering crunchy shrimp tempura rolls, order naruto rolls instead. These wrapped-in-cucumber, rice-free rolls may set the tone for the entire meal.

3. Be mindful about alcohol.

Skip the first alcoholic drink and start with a glass of seltzer. It's an easy way to cut down on the overall alcohol intake for the evening. Ever tried seltzer in a stem glass with a slice of lemon or lime? You might trick yourself into feeling like you’re having a cocktail. Not only will you save calories, but drinking water throughout your meal has been shown to have some major health benefits, plus it reduces the chances of having a call-in-sick hangover the next day.

Reducing your alcohol intake will also help cut down on those not-so-great food choices you make once you’ve had a couple drinks.

4. Skip an appetizer and order a side dish instead.

If there isn’t an appetizer or soup that’s full of whole real foods, check out the veggie side dishes instead. Often something like broccoli rabe or green beans will be a better choice for a first course. If it’s not on the menu, just ask.

If you’re out for Chinese food, you can easily order a side of broccoli or veggies without sauce. Feel free to get your sauce of choice on the side and drizzle a tablespoon on top. You’ll be in control of how much high-calorie sauce you’re consuming and may just be surprised at how far a little sauce goes. Also the fiber-rich veggies will help to fill you up.

5. Split a protein entree or order a protein appetizer as your meal.

Often, appetizer portions are the perfect dinner-sized portions. Order those green beans to start, followed by the appetizer shrimp skewer. If there isn't an appealing appetizer, split a main dish with your dining partner.

6. Save your starches for home.

I’m all in favor of a perfectly roasted sweet potato, mashed squash and grains like rice, barley or farro. However, order these at most places, and that’s not all you’re getting. Most are flavored with loads of butter, oils and salt for added flavor, making it all too easy to overeat. Opt to eat these at home when you have more control over exactly what goes into them and how much is served.

Instead, order a meal of a protein like salmon or grass-fed beef paired with two non-starchy veggies like asparagus, spinach or mushrooms instead. At your local Italian spot? Order shrimp marinara thrown over broccoli instead of pasta. You’ll still get the enjoyment of enjoying a nice hearty, comfort meal, without the refined pasta.

For more tips on how to live a nutritious life follow Keri on Instagram @nutritiouslifeofficial