How to (Happily) Survive Dinner with Friends
Eating out while watching what you eat can be a struggle, so (unfortunately) some people avoid the situation altogether. But there is no need to stay home all the time while your friends go out for dinner. Just be prepared and have power over your plate.
Although we can pick our friends, we may not always get to pick our dinner companions, especially if we go to a restaurant with a large group of people (coworkers, friends of friends, etc.) And why does this matter? According to a study published late last year, the size of the people we eat with can influence how much we eat. The real culprit to watch for - our skinny friends with big appetites! The study showed that participants mimicked their skinny friend's portions, even when the skinny person purposely overate, but participants adjusted what they ate when dining with an obese person.
Assuming we're not going to invite or un-invite our friends to dinner based on their size 0 build or prominent belly-bulge (who would!?), we may be able to make a suggestion as to where the group dines. Put your two cents in for avoiding the all-you-can-eat buffets or "Freddy's Fried Shack of French Fries" and suggest a spot with a more sensible menu. If you'll be eating later than usual, snack on some nuts or fruit beforehand so you're not already starving before you sit down to order.
Once you're at the restaurant, make a plan for your dinner. Don't be tempted to order something just to be different than everyone else. You know what you an afford in calories for the day. Remember that substitutions can be your best friend, as well as ordering any sauces, marinades or dressings "on the side" so you can be in charge of what goes on your meat or vegetables.
Ask a friend to spit an entree with you and order an extra salad. Restaurants are notorious for serving up super-sized portions. In fact, many restaurants serve up to five or six times the recommended protein, pasta and bread servings that are listed at MyPyramid.
And don't forget that everything counts - from that pre-dinner drink to the scrumptious triple-chocolate cake. If you decide you want dessert, try the "three-bite" rule: take three bites, enjoy them and then give the rest away.
Lastly, keep in mind that this is just one dinner. You won't wake up five pounds heavier after one night out. You can average out the extra calories the days before and after your known dinner date, but don't skip lunch and/or breakfast the day-of so you'll feel less guilty about ordering out. Be smart and have fun with your friends - that's the whole point anyway.