Dining out is a great way to experience new cuisine and enjoy a meal with family and friends. But dining out often leads to overeating, a problem that's unhealthy year-round but especially inconvenient when warm air makes it more uncomfortable to deal with the side effects of overeating.
Though some restaurants offer large portions that can make it difficult to lighten things up when dining out in the summer, the following are a handful of ways diners can keep things light but still enjoy their favorite restaurants even when the mercury has risen.
* Don't be bashful. Some restaurants alter their menus in warmer weather to accommodate those customers who prefer lighter fare on hot nights. But even those that don't make such alterations might be amenable to customers who request certain changes when dining out. For example, ask your waiter if you can substitute vegetables in lieu of a side of potatoes or french fries, which tend to be heavier and harder to digest. Don't be afraid to ask for such substitutions or even ask that vegetable servings be doubled.
* Don't mistake "low-carb" for "low-calorie." Just because a dish is heralded as "low-carb" does not necessarily mean it's low in calories. A low-carb dish might seem like the perfect option on a warm summer night, but not if it's laden with calories. Before ordering a low-carb dish, confirm if it's also low in calories and low in fat. If not, look for a lighter option to avoid feeling too full after dinner.
* Think inside the box. When ordering a large entree, you can be creative by asking your waiter to box half of your meal before it even reaches the table. This prevents you from overeating and makes it more likely that you will eat a meal that's more in tune with a healthy serving size.
* Don't pile on your salad. Salads are a summertime staple for many people, who prefer salads because they're delicious but not likely to produce any symptoms of overeating. But salads are only as light as their ingredients allow them to be. If you want to keep things light and healthy, avoid adding too many ingredients to your salad. Creamy dressings are often heavy, especially when paired with ingredients like bacon and cheese. When adding ingredients to your salad, opt for lighter and healthier items like raw vegetables or even some fresh fruit.
* Forgo the freebies. While many people consider complementary bread baskets one of the joys of dining out, such freebies also make meals more filling. If you anticipate your meal taking a long time to make it to your table, ask the waiter to bring a plate of fresh fruit or vegetables in lieu of a bread basket or a bowl of chips or nachos. This way you won't starve while waiting for your meal, but also you won't be filling up on heavy foods you might regret eating when you head back into the warm summer air.
* Split dessert. Dessert might seem like the ideal way to cap off a delicious meal, but a decadent slice of chocolate cake or creamy helping of creme brulee only makes a meal more filling. If you must indulge in dessert, split your dessert with a fellow diner so your last few bites of the night don't make you feel uncomfortable when it's time to leave the restaurant.
Many people prefer to eat less when temperatures rise. And while restaurants tend to offer larger portions than you might eat at home, there are ways to enjoy a night out on the town without overdoing it at the dinner table.