Is a romantic dinner out with your sweetie in the cards for Valentine's Day? If so, don't let that night out turn into something you'll regret in the morning.
Here are my tips for skirting diet disasters that will have you loving your scale come weigh day.
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Pick a restaurant and head to the web. Many restaurants post nutrition information on their websites, though you may have to dig for it. Decide in advance what menu items will work for you.
If nutrition information isn't available, pull up the restaurant's menu and search out the more nutritious options. For example, start with an appetizer, like shrimp cocktail, that's high in protein, not floating in melted cheese or fried. Research shows that eating a high protein appetizer leads to consuming fewer entree calories.
If no appetizers fit that bill, jump ahead to salads. Be on the lookout for salads heavy on greens and veggies and light on cheese and croutons. You can pick any dressing and have it served on the side; dip your fork's tines in before spearing some greens.
Salad not for you? Check out soups. A broth-based (hold the cream) soup loaded with veggies and some lean meat can keep you from clearing your entrees plate. Since it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you've consumed some food, a soup or salad starter gets the message through before your entree arrives.
Next, pick a lean entree like chicken breast, pork tenderloin, tilapia or flank steak. Stay away from dishes that come breaded, deep-fried or sauteed in butter.
Select vegetable sides that are steamed and not smothered in butter-enriched or cheesy sauces, since extra calories hide within both. If the chef seems sauce-happy, plan ahead to omit the sauce, or have it served on the side.
Don't skip dessert, just be smart about it. I favor fruit-centered desserts over buttery, sugary calorie bombs. No fruit? OK, it is a special evening, pick one dessert that you can share with your significant other.
Once you get to the restaurant, you still have two issues to address: bread and alcohol.
Mixed drinks can deliver 200 to 500 calories a glass. Those calories come from the alcohol (105 calories per jigger); the rest from sugars. Avoid all those calories by drinking sparkling water with one or two lime twists. It's refreshing and you won't need a designated driver. Or, opt for a glass of wine at around 125 calories.
Pass on that aromatic bread basket that delivers a boatload of refined carbohydrate calories (82 per ounce). Adding a butter smear only adds insult (36 calories per pat) to the injury. After being seated, ask that it not be brought to your table and avoid the temptation.
By following these tips you'll do something good for your heart and your sweetheart without compromising a lovely Valentine's Day dinner.
Try this recipe: Staying in for Valentine's Day? Here's a comforting casserole that tastes great and keeps calories and fats in check.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.