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The smart triathlete’s guide to eating out

Got dinner plans this weekend? Do your research ahead of time to make smarter choices. 

So you’re training for a big race and trying to optimize your performance with better nutrition. Or maybe you’re ThinkstockPhotos-509051096running to help you achieve your weight loss goals. These are great focuses for runners, but what do you do when going out to a restaurant for a meal? How can you stick to your healthy goals without being a stick in the mud? Caring about nutrition is great, but so is having a vibrant social life. Accept the invite, but follow these tips for eating out to keep you from straying.

Do your research

Chain restaurants have to post nutritional information for their meals. Checking out the menu online before you go out for dinner not only helps you to make a healthier choice, but it also helps you choose your order faster. That leaves more time to focus on whoever you’re dining with. Perusing the menu beforehand may leave you surprised– some of the dishes that you thought sounded healthy, may actually be some of the higher calorie options on the menu.

For example, the eight-piece wing meal at Montana’s is 1060 calories, while the bison burger is 660. East Side Mario’s spaghetti and meatballs comes in at 1670 calories, while the pesto and peppers spaghettini with goat cheese comes in at 720 calories.

134218877Know the lingo

“Crispy,” “breaded,” “creamy” and “smothered” are usually code words for high in fat or calorie-laden. Look for “grilled,” “baked,” or “steamed” for safer options.

Don’t be shy

Don’t be afraid to ask your server for what you want, just make sure you do it politely. Ask for dressings or sauces on the side so that you can control your portions or ask for substitutions (salad over fries or extra veggies).

Pack it up

Pay attention to your stomach. If your meal is so delicious that you want to keep eating, but your stomach is saying, “Hey, it’s getting crowded down here,” ask your server if you can take the rest of your meal to-go. That way, you can enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day and skip the discomfort of over-eating. Win-win.

Split it upThinkstockPhotos-478406930

If you want to order something more indulgent, why not split it with a friend or significant other? This is an especially great option if you don’t think you have the self-control to stop eating and take the rest to go. If you and your partner are craving that creamy pasta dish, why not order appetizer salads and then split one pasta main?