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The Freshman 15 is real. So is the Freshman 20, the Freshman 30, and for that matter, the Freshman <insert any number here>. It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating out – there’s cheap food everywhere on and around campus, it tastes good, and there’s practically no clean up. Plus, if you have a meal plan card like I do, it’s almost like you don’t have to spend money on it either. Restaurant food can really pack on the pounds, but you can definitely avoid it (without looking like a health-obsessed snob). Here’s how!

Skip the appetizer and dessert.

Just order one plate of food. The more variety there is, the more you will eat. It’s as simple as that. You don’t get sick of the flavor as quickly when there’s variety, and it’s also more difficult to watch your portions this way. Ever wonder why you’re always so full after a buffet or dim sum? This is why.

Ignore the soft drinks and alcoholic drinks.

Drinking your calories is probably one of the easiest ways to consume too much sugar at once, especially when you order more than one. Swap it out with water, and save your drinking calories for the party. Your wallet will thank you too.

Avoid anything labeled “crispy”.

It really just means “fried”. In many cases, it means “fried twice”. I learned this from watching the Food Network. (The best fries are actually deep fried twice.) Plus, any kind of fried meat (read: crispy chicken, crispy pork, etc.) is usually dredged in a flour and egg mixture before it’s fried. That’s the breading that you see, and it packs on extra carbs and fat that you really don’t want. It’s also a good way for restaurants to cut back on the amount of meat that they give you, which means that you’re not getting much protein either.

Beware of any kind of salad.

It sounds counterintuitive, but salad dressing can actually make your salad worse for you than a hamburger. I dare you to look up the nutrition facts of a salad with dressing. It’s shocking. Always remember to ask for dressing on the side, and use it sparingly. I actually use my salad dressing as a dip. That way, I don’t use any more than I need. You want the flavor – not soggy lettuce.

Watch your portions.

Restaurant portions are made to be much larger than what the regular person eats when they’re at home. (Don’t believe me? Look at the size of a plate of pasta that you eat at home. Then look at the size of a plate at a restaurant. Yeah.) It makes the consumer feel like they’re getting value for their money because they’re getting so much more food. Unfortunately, we finish all of that food in one meal anyway, and before you know it, you’ve gotten your fat intake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at once.

Got any other tips for eating healthy at restaurants?
Leave them in the comments below!

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Image courtesy of bburky via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).