If I had a dollar for every person I've heard blame their overweight issues on eating out, well lets just say I'd have enough dollars for a very nice meal or two :). Eating out is lots of fun (not to mention convenient) and almost every social event seems to revolve around food, but the excess portions and calories that usually accompany a meal out can quickly make it not worth it when you're trying to be healthy or loose weight. It is possible, though, to eat out and even indulge occasionally without sabotaging your health and your diet. As long as you prepare and inform yourself ahead of time you can avoid the guilt and frustration and not be afraid of your scale the next day.
At the very most basic it always goes back to being aware of what you're putting in your body. Most restaurants make nutrition information available either on their website or upon request at the restaurant itself. This is a good place to start, it's helpful to know that the soup or salad you thought was so healthy is actually loaded with calories and/or fat. Most of us are not as good at estimating the nutritional value of foods as we think we are. It's also a good deterrent to see that the cheesecake you're thinking about eating all by yourself is over 1,000 calories with 40 or more grams of fat most of which are saturated. Know what you're putting in your body! (I know I sound redundant but I want it embedded in your brain) Even if you are purposefully indulging(and in my opinion that is totally ok on occasion) it should be planned, if you know you're going to binge on a 1,500 calorie dinner it's a good idea to save some calories earlier in the day, be extra careful that week, or at the very least be prepared that you won't be happy with your scale for a couple days or longer. You also need to know that you can indulge in food that tastes amazing (and isn't great for you - yes I know it never tastes as good if you know it's "healthy") without putting unnecessary processed or chemical junk in your body. Many bakeries are using all natural ingredients to make delicious sweet treats and you can find other kinds of all natural "junk" food at almost any grocery store these days.
Along those same lines, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to make a healthy choice if you decide what you're going to eat before you ever get in the restauraunt. When you show up unprepared and spend time looking over the menu you are setting yourself up for failure. Apetizing smells all around you and wonderful descriptions of savory fried or buttery deliciousness will tempt you to make the wrong choice, especially if you're very hungry. So plan ahead, know what you can eat that won't wreck your health and you won't have to spend time looking at the menu when you're hungry and tempted, you'll already know what you want. Even deciding ahead of time that you will only eat one breadstick (or roll or whatever they bring to the table) will strengthen your willpower and help you keep your hands out of the basket.
Here are just a few places I like to go that I know have healthy vegetarian and/or vegan options:
Ramsi's Cafe on the World - on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville is representative of one of the many reasons I love Louisville, amazing local restaurants. They have a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes and the food is amazing.
North End Cafe - another local favorite on Frankfort Ave. in Louisville. From their website "
Panera - here you can download a list with basic nutrition information for all menu items or click on the nutrition calculator which will give you both the nutrition information for your meal and the ingredient list. My favorite here is the low fat garden vegetable soup with basil pesto and a whole grain baguette. With the pesto (which contains some romano cheese) the entire meal has 320 calories, 4.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. Without the pesto it is vegan(with the exception of honey in the baguette-the french baguette has no honey) and has 290 calories, 1.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. I will note that the sodium in this meal is a little high, but other than that I think it is a good choice for a healthy meal out.