Don't OD on Olive Oil You feel oh-so-virtuous dipping your bread in olive oil, but dunking can be a waistline wrecker. It's still all fat and it's calorie dense, and bread soaks it up like a sponge. Dip and devour two slices and you'll be at around 380 calories, or 75% to 90% of what most women should have for the whole meal. Butter is easier to keep track of (a thumbnail-size pat is about 45 calories), but it contains saturated fat. Solution: Go with heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil, but add balsamic vinegar to cut fat and calories and boost flavor.
Beware 'Small' Plates When tapas made their way to the States, they became supersized—and, often, super-fried: An order of patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy mayo) weighs in at around 500 calories. Even lighter-seeming pesto shrimp and avocado crostini can run 640 calories per order. Plus, with tapas, most people don't feel full because they're not sitting down to an actual meal. Psychologically, they don't fill you up as much. Ditto the little plates at Mediterranean or Korean restaurants. They're all calorie bombs. Solution: Look for the word grilled. And when ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée, make sure one is protein and one is veggies, so you feel satisfied and don't splurge on a third (less wholesome) mini dish.
Don't Trust the Chef You care about calories. We care about calories. That chef in the kitchen? The default method to make food taste better is to add more fat and salt. Solution: Before ordering, ask, "Is there cream or butter in this dish?" Don't trust the menu description, because it rarely mentions the full prep.
Ask for Plain Veggies Steamed veggies will never be a total disaster. (You're getting fiber and antioxidants, after all!) Still, top chefs often finish them in a sauté pan with a slick of butter or oil to amp up flavor. The latest craze with veggies and salads is to toss them with bacon or bacon drippings... without mentioning it on the menu. Solution: Order everything using the code word for un-fooled-around-with: dry. That way you can control your calorie count. And keep in mind that vegetables with a soft interior—eggplant and mushrooms—absorb more fat than root vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips.
Don't Fall for Looks Gorgeously plated meals may look fabulous, but they can make you underestimate how much food is in front of you. A large serving suddenly looks teensy on a huge platter or piled up high. Starters like that Tex-Mex guilt trip known as Seven-Layer Bean Dip or desserts such as cobbler served in a Mason jar make it hard to figure out how much you're actually eating. Solution: Do a proper-portion check. Lean protein should be no bigger than your smartphone; a serving of carbs should be the size of your fist, much smaller than the average pasta entrée. "Even if it doesn't say so on the menu, most restaurants will do any pasta entrée as an appetizer