Many restaurants now feature nutrition information online, so check the restaurant's website before you head out the door. Undecided about where you're going? When you arrive, excuse yourself from the table for a minute and do a quick search on your smartphone. Per meal, aim for 500 calories, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 800mg sodium or less and 5g fiber or more. Look for dishes that have whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Be aware of portion sizes
Restaurant servings have increased over the years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average order of fries has grown to nearly three times what it was in the 1950s. But it can be difficult to avoid eating more than you need when it's served to you. Try ordering a child-size portion or a half order, or split a dish with a friend.
Don't be fooled by "light" offerings
Many restaurants features dishes they say are lighter. But just because those options have fewer calories and less fat than other menu items doesn't mean they're actually diet-friendly. Stick to the basics: Avoid heavy sauces and dressings (get them on the side), opt for grilled or broiled foods instead of fried and start your meal with broth-based soup or green salad.
Keep salads simple
At the salad bar, pile on a colorful variety of vegetables, fruits and other nutritious toppings—beans are a great choice—and avoid croutons, cheese, bacon and other fat traps. Add crunch with carrots, celery, bell peppers and a sprinkling of nuts or sunflower seeds. Get a shot of creamy decadence with a few slices of heart-healthy avocado. Round it out with a salty touch by adding a few sliced olives or artichoke hearts.
Get one for your group and share it—you'll probably find that couple of bites are all you need to feel satisfied. Have a lighter lunch or snack earlier in the day to make up for these extra calories.
Photo Credit: Flickr / Passive Income Dream