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Order up a serving of good health

Mmmm. Dinner tonight at your favorite restaurant. Dancing in your head are visions of creamy pasta sauces, 2-inch-thick sirloin steaks, Caesar salads and strawberry cheesecake. If you welcome eating out as an occasion to dig into high-calorie entrees and rich desserts, you’ve got plenty of company. A truly occasional splurge won’t cause any lasting heart risks. But if like most Americans you enjoy one out of three meals away from home, you may be headed for trouble—heart trouble.

Here are a dozen suggestions for dining out—with your heart in mind.

  1. Meeting friends at a restaurant? Don’t get there too early. It’ll be tough to pass up a drink or snack while you wait.
  2. Snack on fruit, soda crackers or clear soup before going out. After all, a growling stomach is an invitation to overindulge.
  3. Say “no” to alcoholic beverages. Not only do they add empty calories, they also lower your resistance to foods that are off limits.
  4. Enjoy clear soup, fruit or vegetable juice as an appetizer.
  5. Consider skipping an entree in favor of a couple of appetizers. Or split an entree with a friend.
  6. Move the breadbasket to the far end of the table.
  7. Ask for lemon juice or olive oil and vinegar instead of full-fat salad dressings.
  8. Put the brakes on your chewing speed by ordering foods that need work: Try unboned fish, artichokes and anything eaten with chopsticks.
  9. If you can’t resist dessert, go for fruit sorbets. Or order a piece of “death by chocolate” cake, but split it.
  10. Speak up. Ask your waiter if high-fat ingredients can be omitted.
  11. Don’t order the complete dinner, which usually has too many courses. Instead, make your selections à la carte.
  12. Ask for a doggie bag. It’s a good way to enjoy your entire meal without going overboard on calories.