The moment has come. One of your friends has asked you to join them for dinner at their favorite restaurant tonight. What do you do? Avoid the situation and stay home? Go out and ruin all the progress you’ve made?

We’re here to tell you:you can be social and stay on-track! No matter if you’re on the Pure21 Challenge currently or are looking to maintain the lifestyle long-term, it’s possible (and encouraged) to enjoy a meal out. While we always recommend home-cooked first, the average person’s busy schedule and social calendar don’t always allow for that.

Below are our Top 10 Tips to enjoy a dinner out while still staying true to Pure21!

  1. Swap out healthier alternatives.

Don’t be shy, request for healthier, Pure21-approved alternatives in menu items. For example, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. Or, if it comes with fries, ask for a baked potato or a side of vegetables instead. It’s simple substitutions like this that make all the difference. Trust us, restaurants want you to enjoy your dining experience and will – more often than not – are willing to make accommodations for you.

  1. Ask for extra veggies.

Is it just us, or does a side of vegetables seem more like a garnish rather than a full serving? When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies. You can offer to pay extra, but most restaurants won’t up-charge you.

  1. Ask how the food was prepared.

Menu items typically provide as much detail as a vague summary of what you might expect and often don’t disclose key aspects to the dish. Cooking oils or calorie-dense, non-plan-approved toppings are often unmentioned. But what language is included is typically confusing, such as “cholesterol-free”, which doesn’t necessarily mean fat-free, or “lite”, which doesn’t necessarily mean light in calories or fat.

  1. Beware of the low-carb options.

Restaurant chains have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, offering numerous low-carb options on their menu. But low-carb doesn’t mean low-cal and there is a difference between good and bad carbs even in small portions. Stick with clean ingredients

  1. Ask to box half your entrée

Restaurant servings are much larger than the average person needs to consume in one sitting – especially as part of the Pure21 lifestyle. Actually, restaurants are serving 3-4 times the appropriate portion size. Request half your meal be stored in a takeout box before your meal ever gets to the table. Not a fan of leftovers? Split an entrée with your dining partner.

  1. Don’t ignore the appetizers.

Believe it or not, the healthiest options are often hiding in the appetizer menu. Appetizers are typically on the smaller size, so you can mix-and-match for a variety of flavors, without an excess of calories. Ask your waiter to be sure of the actual size served.

  1. Don’t destroy the health of vegetables.

We love a good vegetable dish, but at a restaurant, they’re often accompanied with a large serving of creamy sauce like coleslaw, proc

essed meats like bacon bits and fried items like crispy onions. Instead, load up on raw fruit salad or lightly marinated vegetables.

  1. Watch the add-ons to salads.

Remember, the menu won’t always disclose every ingredient. Always ask what is included, as even salads that are mostly made up of raw vegetables can come loaded with an excess amount of calories with plenty of cheese, processed meats, and dressings. Take the typical Caesar salad in most restaurants: it’s piled high with chicken or shrimp, cheese and mayo in the dressing, and buttery croutons. Keep the salad fresh and light to avoid unwanted calories or fat.

  1. Ask for dressing on the side.

Of course, dressing is fine…in moderation. The best way to combine salad dressing with salad: Dip your empty fork into a side of dressing, and then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised by the amount of flavor in how little dressing you actually use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.

  1. Check the menu before you leave home.

Most chain restaurants post their menus on their websites. Go into the night with a plan before you ever meet the hostess stand. This will keep your temptation low and your excitement high. Of course, if you don’t see anything that fits your Pure21-lifestyle needs, pick another restaurant. There are plenty to choose from.

BONUS TIP: Drink water throughout the meal.

You know water is an important part of the Pure21 Challenge, but it’s extra helpful when dining out. Not only will it slow you down so you can better savor the flavors of your food, drinking water along with your bites of food gives your brain a second to receive the message that you’re full well before your plate is empty.