Wondering how to eat out while dieting? Check these tips.

Dear Healthy Professor: My diet seems to fall apart whenever I eat out. What can I do?

Answer: First let me tell you that you are not alone. Sometimes how we eat at a restaurant depends on the situation. For example, I know that if I want to have a quick meal — whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner — I can usually muster up enough control to order something that fits into my healthy eating plan.

But, if it’s an event — let’s say out with friends — my resolve weakens. These special occasions happen more often than we think, so it’s important to know some ways to make eating out a healthy experience.

A good way to stay on track is to think about eating out in a new way. Focus on the surroundings and company more than the food. Looking forward to seeing your meal companions as the main course and the food as a side dish may seem a bit odd, but it works. Once you have decided that it’s not all about the food, then try the following strategies.

Tips

Find the best restaurant for you. Get to know menus and choose a restaurant that has the food you want to eat.

Don’t set yourself up by going to a place that serves deep-fried everything. Although it is possible to make good food choices at many eateries, a restaurant that focuses on Mediterranean-style cooking is especially helpful.

Get the bread off the table. Easier said than done, I know. I’ve tried portion control on this one, and for me it just doesn’t work.

If your dining companions don’t object, ask for the bread to be removed or just move it away.

Order your meal your way: It’s estimated that at least 75 per cent of patrons request special preparations such as no butter, dressing on the side, double vegetables, no starch?. Restaurants are usually happy to accommodate. Speak up.

Watch the portions. You’ve heard this hundreds of times, but it’s main reason restaurant meals are high in calories. They are just too big. Share or take half home.

Avoid alcohol. After one drink, I’m like, “Healthy Professor who?” If you are like me, maybe you should pass on the drinks. You will stay nutritionally focused and save calories, too.

Plan for dessert. If you want dessert, pass on the appetizer and eat less of the entree. Order one dessert with a couple of forks to share the calories and the pleasure.

Go to the National Restaurant Association’s Web site (http://www.restaurant.org/) for additional tips that can help you make eating out part of a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Nina Marinello is the coordinator of nutrition education in the department of athletics at the State University of New York at Albany. She also serves on the department of nutrition Science Advisory Board at The Sage Colleges in upstate New York.