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7 ways to make better choices when dining out

Studies show 58 percent of American adults say they dine out at least once a week, while 14 percent go out two or three times per week and 4 percent eat out more than three times per week.

As the number of people dining out continues to increase, many people find themselves looking for ways to stay focused on healthy eating when they are not the ones preparing their meals. The following are a handful of ways diners can stay healthy without giving up their love of dining out.

· Don't arrive at the restaurant too hungry. Eat a small and filling snack before going to a restaurant. Eating a snack ahead of time will prevent you from overeating once your food arrives. An apple, protein bar or some crackers and cheese can take the edge off hunger and reduce the likelihood that you will overeat at the restaurant.

· Fill up on water. When the server comes to take your drink order, ask for some water if it's not already on the table. The symptoms of dehydration mimic those of hunger. Also, drinking water before and during your meal will help you to feel full and decrease the likelihood that you will overeat.

· Engage in conversation. Bring someone with you to the restaurant so you can share some lively conversation. The more time you spend talking, the longer it will take to eat, giving your body time to digest and prevent overeating.

· Choose the right foods. When perusing the menu, look for foods cooked a certain way. Broiled and grilled meats are healthier than fried foods, and steamed vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. Avoid heavy cream sauces, lots of cheese and fatty meats. Ask if you can substitute fresh vegetables or brown rice for unhealthy sides or white rice.

· Eat more seafood. Seafood is not only flavorful, but healthy as well. Eating certain fish gives your body the right types of fats to help the neurological system function properly and fuel your brain.

· Avoid dining out as a reaction to stress. Don't go out to a restaurant if you are feeling stressed or rushed, especially if you use food as a coping mechanism. You may end up rushing through your meal and eating more than you intended.

· Divide your meal. Share a plate with others or ask for a to-go container when your course is served. This allows you to set aside some leftovers before you start to eat, reducing the likelihood that you will overeat.

Dining out is a favorite activity for many people, and diners can take several steps to make their dining experiences healthier.

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