A healthier lifestyle includes socializing and enjoying time with family and friends. Oftentimes, that means dining out. Or maybe you just need a break from the stove. Whatever the reason… dining out means less control over what you are eating. Nevertheless you are certainly in control of what you order and how much of it you decide to eat. So here are “go-to” tips for dining out after bariatric surgery.

First and foremost, are you able to choose the restaurant? If so, choose a restaurant you know has nutritious food options. Otherwise, rest assured most restaurants these days have healthy options. Take some time to review the menu online prior, so you are prepared to order the healthy option. Think outside the box; you can order just an appetizer item for your meal, order a meal option and doggie bag half of it for portion control, or customize your order based on their food option.

While driving to the restaurant and ordering your food, you should be sipping on your water. This will certainly be about 30 minutes before your food arrives so you will be hydrated and ready to eat once your food comes out. This will also help you avoid confusing thirst for hunger.

Order first.  It’s a phenomenon researchers have labeled the “social facilitation” effect. Basically, people tend to eat more in the presence of others. Usually this occurs when you’re dining with friends or relatives, while eating with people you don’t know well seems to make some self-conscious and thereby they eat less. Some researchers suggest that socializing can distract you from realizing that you’re satisfied. It could be tempting to order something unhealthy when you hear everyone else indulging. But you have a plan, so stick to it. Or be the one to order first, and avoid the temptation.

Wondering what to order? Protein is priority, so select a good protein option like chicken, beef, fish, egg or tofu. If it is cooked in a certain sauce, you can always ask for the sauce on the side. Next, find something with mostly vegetables. Look for healthier cooking styles such as grilled, steamed, roasted, broiled or baked. Don’t be afraid to customize your order, most restaurants are happy to do so.

Don’t compare plates. You shouldn’t compare what everyone else is eating to what you are eating. Unless, you want to compare stomach sizes. Your stomach is 60-80% smaller than your friend’s stomach that is eating that entire plate of ravioli. You have limited space in your stomach, which means you will fill up fast! So give your body the most nutrient dense foods to fill up on.

Enjoy the company. Rather than concentrating on the food, take the time to talk to your friend. Maybe you’re out on a lunch date to catch up with a friend, so it’s really not about the food, but about the friend! Take time to talk with them and this will help pace your meal.

Stop at the first sign of fullness. It takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain that you are full, so when you first start feeling full… Stop eating! Ask the waiter to doggie bag the rest and continue enjoying the time out.

Some of these tips are things you may need to think about doing at first. But as time goes on you will develop these healthy habits and they will be a part of your dining out routine.