Preparing your own home-cooked meals is one of the best ways to ensure you are eating the freshest and healthiest of foods, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to cook up a meal. Forget about time and energy, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a night out. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy strategies for dining out. These strategies can help to enjoy a meal cooked by someone else without having to say goodbye to your weight loss goals for the evening.

Healthy strategies for dining out may include:

Ask for whole-wheat bread when your meal consists of a sandwich.

When it comes time to order a beverage, opt for water, fat-free milk or unsweetened tea. Avoid the temptation of ordering a beverage with added sugars.

Always start with a salad as one of your healthy strategies for dining out. Eating a salad packed with vegetables can help to control your hunger and allow you to feel fuller more quickly.

Ask for your salad dressing on the side. To cut down on calories, only use as much of the salad dressing as you need.

Opt for a main dish that includes plenty of vegetables; such as a pasta or stir fry.

Always choose broiled, grilled or steam meals over those that are sauteed or fried.

If you find yourself with the option of a sit-down dinner or an all-you-can-eat buffet, always opt for the sit-down dinner when searching for healthy strategies for dining out. A sit-down dinner will allow you to control your portions; unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When you visit a restaurant with over-sized portions, place half of your meal in a take-out container immediately. This can help you to avoid overeating.

If the main portions at a restaurant are larger than you would prefer, consider ordering a side dish or an appetizer as your main course.

Avoid foods that have gravies or creamy sauces.

Avoid adding butter to your food. If you do add butter, keep it to a minimum.

If you are going to eat dessert, choose an option with fruit.

With a little effort and planning, you can enjoy a night out with friends without tossing your healthy eating plan out the window for the night. Healthy eating does not have to mean skipping out on fun and foods you enjoy. What are some of your healthy strategies for dining out at your favorite restaurants?

Dr. Matthew Gianforte is the owner and a chiropractor at LifeWorks Integrative Health in Shawnee, KS. LifeWorks Integrative Health combines a wide variety of services to meet your every need — including chiropractic care, medical services, weight loss services, massage therapy and physical therapy.