Date-Night Dining Strategies that Won't Kill the Fun

Got hot reservations? Learn how to enjoy a Valentine's Day dinner the healthy way.
Healthy Valentines Day Dining

The greatest part about Valentine's Day is spending time with your sweetie. And what better way to do that than with a nice dinner out? Of course, when you're faced with a sprawling menu of decadent options, or worse, a set prix fix, panic can sometimes set in, ruining the mood.

But it doesn't have to! You're not denying yourself anything, you're making choices about your life. And you're sharing a meal with those you love, whether that's your partner, your family, or a group of friends. How could it get any better than that? With a little planning and these five easy strategies, you can take control and treat yourself to a special night.

1. 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. And 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.
Fancier restaurants prepare dishes to order, so requests are usually no problem. But even less fancy dining establishments are often willing to make changes too. There's no harm in asking! And on that note, 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." If the chef cannot accommodate you, ask your waiter to suggest an alternative, lighter preparation.

2. Keep it simple
When scanning the menu, keep certain prep terms in mind. In terms of calories, grilled is usually better than fried; baked is better than braised.

3. Dictate your own portion
Meals these days are often served in enormous portions. Ask the waiter to divide yours before it's served and put one half in a take-home bag that's reserved for you in the kitchen. That way you won't be tempted to overeat tonight, and you'll have lunch or dinner for tomorrow, too.

4. Prioritize what you put in your mouth
If you think your entree might end up being a splurge, even with special requests, make healthier choices elsewhere in your meal. Forgo a cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead. Ask for lemon juice or vinegar on your salad. Order cocktail sauce or chutney for your baked potato, rather than butter and sour cream.

5. Share
Consider splitting an appetizer, a salad or a dessert. It's romantic to share a dish with someone you love!

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