6 Tricks to Stay on Track During Your Valentine’s Day Dinner Date

So you can enjoy your meal *and* meet your goals.
Published February 9, 2016

Although Valentine's Day is all about spending time with your partner or friends, dining out together can turn an average evening into a festive occasion. However, with wine, a fancy entrée, and dessert, you can easily surpass your Points™ Budget. The good news: While it can be challenging to navigate a rich restaurant menu, it *is* possible to take control. So, treat yourself to a special night with these six dining out strategies: 

1. Relax

Don't approach the dinner with trepidation. You're not denying yourself anything, you're making choices about your life. And you're sharing a meal with someone you love, whether it's your partner, your family, your friends, or yourself! How could it get any better than that?

2. Ask for what you want

  • Scan the menu to create your own dinner.
    If you want the fish, but don't want the cream sauce, ask for it to be served with the salsa that comes with the chicken, or the fresh herbs from the pasta. If you want veal but don't want it drenched in butter, ask for it with lemon juice and herbs. Fancier restaurants prepare dishes to order, so it's no problem. Less fancy dining establishments are often willing to make changes too. There's no harm in asking!
  • The same goes for the sides.
    That shrimp dish you want might come with potato gratin, but the roast chicken comes with grilled asparagus. Just ask for the shrimp with asparagus.
  • Tell the chef not to "finish" the sauce.
    Chefs sometimes swirl butter into a sauce before it's served. Ask if the sauce can be plain, fresh and bright, not "finished."
  • Ask for recommendations.
    If the chef cannot accommodate you, ask your waiter to suggest an alternative, lighter preparation. But ask for what you want the way you want it.

3. Order simpler food, prepared light

In terms of calories and Points, grilled is usually better than fried; baked is better than braised.

4. Ask for your meal to be divided

Meals these days can be served in enormous portions. If your meal surpasses a single serving—and you can use this guide as a gauge—ask the waiter to pack half of it in a to-go box before you take your first bite. That way you'll have dinner the next day too.

5. Make smart swaps so you never feel deprived

  • Instead of ordering a cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, have a glass of red wine instead.
  • Instead of a creamy dressing, ask for lemon juice or vinegar on your salad.
  • Instead of butter or sour cream on your baked potato, ask for cocktail sauce or chutney.

6. Share

When dining with your partner, split an appetizer, salad, or a dessert. It's called romance (and will help you save weeklies for later!).

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