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Defensive Dining

This article is by guest writer Joanne “Dr Jo” Lichten, PhD.

Trying to eat healthy in restaurants? Bored of grilled chicken and salad? Hate feeling deprived? Good news! You can make any meal healthier with just a few “no big deal” changes.

1. Get It Your Way.

  • Request them not to brush your fajitas, steak, chicken, or fish with butter (ask for some melted butter “on the side” if you’re worried that the meat will be too dry)
  • Ask for your pizza to be prepared “light on the cheese”
  • Request half the meat and double the vegetables in your stir fry.
  • Ask for the dressing, sauces, and butters “on the side” so you can “dip and stab”.
  • Order black beans or whole pinto beans rather than refried beans at the Mexican restaurant

2. Make Miss Manners Mad.

  • Trim the visible fat off the meat
  • Pull the skin off roasted chicken and save 100 calories
  • Scrape off the breading and drain the excess sauce into your butter dish
  • Pat the pizza with a paper napkin – every little bit counts

3. Control Your Portions.

  • Order ala carte to get just what you want
  • Ask for luncheon or appetizer portions – even if it’s not on the menu
  • Take just roll or slice of bread and give the basket back to the server.
  • Get the doggie bag with dinner and immediately put away half your meal (even if you won’t be taking it home – out of sight, out of mind).
  • Use chopsticks – you’ll eat less.
  • To eliminate the temptation to keep nibbling when you’ve had enough, salt your food heavily or pour on the hot sauce.

4. Check the “Price” Tag on your waist. Did you know that:

  • A large cinnamon roll has over 800 calories and contains more than a half a stick of butter?
  • Your morning mocha or large fountain drink contains more than 300 calories?
  • Each of these has 100 calories: mayonnaise on your burger, cheese slice, 2 strips bacon, sautéed mushrooms, sliced avocado, 1 large onion ring, 7 potato puffs, 10 regular fries, or 20 skinny french fries. Take your pick – not them all!
  • If you eat just 10 calories more than your body needs, you’ll put on a pound of fat each year.

5. Make Leaner Substitutions.

  • Order fresh fruit instead of juice – lower in calories and more filling
  • Ask for egg substitutes instead of eggs – even in your omelet
  • Order Canadian bacon or ham instead of bacon or sausage.
  • Instead of prime rib, order the sirloin or tenderloin
  • Request pasta with tomato sauce instead of cream – or ask for half the cream sauce.
  • Instead of a full meal, order salad and a shrimp cocktail

Dr Jo helps busy people stay healthy, sane, and productive. She has presented more than 1000 programs at conventions and company meetings. Dr. Jo’s the author of three books, Dining Lean, Dr. Jo’s No Big Deal Diet and How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road, available at Sign up for her “Escape the Monday Madness” enewsletter at

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