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An evening out with my husband of thirteen years is sometimes just what is needed to get some time alone. We work full time, and with five kids ages twelve and under, we don’t often get to escape. When we do, we like to go out to eat. Before we completely transformed our eating habits, we went out and ate whatever we wanted. Now, we put more planning into eating things that will nourish our bodies and not make us feel sluggish and guilty for over indulging.

couple holding hands

The first component to a healthy night out is to choose the restaurant. Our choice of outings has a lot to do with affordability and menu choices. We intentionally avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, pizza places and Italian restaurants, and although we do eat at fast food places every now and then, we usually choose a pub with great food or a bistro with a varied menu.

>> Read more: 10 Tips to Eating Healthier at Restaurants

The second thing we do is our homework! We are both teachers, after all; it’s what we do. When putting thought into your restaurant choice, see if you can view the menu online. Many places have this option and it helps you walk in with confidence knowing you already have some idea what you are going to order. A great deal of pressure during the ordering process can be removed by doing this preplanning.

couple on a lunch date

When choosing appropriate menu items we like to follow these six simple rules.

1. Watch portion size. This might mean cutting the entree in half and knowing you will have tasty leftovers to take for lunch the next day, or sharing with your dinner partner.

2. If you plan to order a beer, or a cocktail, skip the carb with your meal. Easy to do, just ask for double veggies.

3. Salads are great, but watch the toppings. Try to choose salads with vinaigrette dressings and if you like crunch, ask for nuts instead of croutons.

4. We always drink water with lemon with our meals. It helps us avoid the trap of overeating due to mistaking thirst for hunger.

5. Order fish or chicken instead of red meat if possible and always choose grilled instead of fried.

6. Don’t be afraid to order an appetizer and a side salad instead of an entree. Our favorite bistro and martini bar has amazing fish tacos on their apps menu.

>> Read more: Best & Worst Dishes at Your Favorite Restaurants

Above all, advocate for yourself. Good servers will tolerate your questions. Ask how many ounces of meat is in a portion, ask what it’s cooked in and don’t be afraid to have them bring any sauces on the side. It is your body, your health and your money. It takes a bit of practice to get comfortable with a new approach to healthy eating so be gentle on yourself, relax and enjoy not cooking for an evening.