20/05/2016 3:50 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST

How To Eat Out And Still Lose Weight (In A Nutshell)

If you regularly eat out -- whether it's for business or pleasure -- and are trying to be healthy or lose weight, it can be a total minefield and the end to all your good intentions.

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How can we avoid the most common pitfalls?

For most of us eating out is a treat, a time when we can indulge in something special and forget about the calorific portions laden on our plates.

But, if you regularly eat out -- whether it's for business or pleasure -- and are trying to be healthy or lose weight, it can be a total minefield and the end to all your good intentions.

"There are a few issues when eating out regularly," said Natasha Murray, accredited practicing dietician. "Portion sizes can be a problem, you don't have control over exactly what goes into or onto your meal and 'value' meals or upsizing can be tempting."

So how can we avoid the most common pitfalls?

Lighten up your choices

Murray said that when making choices from the menu, sticking to lighter options is a good habit to adopt. She suggests looking for dishes that incorporate vegetables or salad, or even considering the vegetarian option.

"Just make sure that the vegetarian option is not doused in cheese," Murray said. "And be aware of other names for fried foods, such as tempura and battered."

When it comes to managing portion size, Murray said it's a good idea to choose an appetizer over a main or, in reverse, ask for a main in an appetizer size.

"Using a smaller plate or ordering an appetizer means we're served up less food, so we're more likely to eat what our body needs, not what our eyes think we need," she said.

However, she warns that you still need to be mindful of your choice.

"Some appetizers can be high in fat, such as deep fried camembert, so look for vegetable based appetizers. Bruschetta is a great choice, as long as it's only lightly brushed with oil, as are dip platters with tzatziki, hummus and vegetable sticks."

Fill up on protein

When choosing a main, Murray recommends looking for protein, which helps to keep you fuller for longer, and ordering salad or vegetables as a side or a baked potato in place of chips. Where possible, she also suggests asking for your meat or fish to be grilled.

Carefully select salads

Acting with caution is even necessary when it comes to salads.

"Be mindful of those salads that come with creamy dressing, such as potato salad, coleslaw and pasta salad," Murray said. "If ordering these, ask for the dressing on the side."

Desserts for two

But what about the icing on the cake of dining out... quite literally... what about desert?

"If you're eating it just for the sake of it, then skip dessert," Murray said. "But, if you really want it and haven't overeaten your main meal, then go for it."

"Order one serve and share between two or three of you, and also ask for cream on the side or none at all. Go for desserts that are fruit based and only indulge in super creamy, extra chocolate ones every once in a while."

Drink responsibly

Murray advises that showing restraint is also key when it comes to drinking alcohol -- as is being aware of the size of your drink and the alcohol content.

She notes that many stubbies of full strength beer and pre-mixed drinks contain 1.2 – 1.9 standard drinks, which means you're drinking more kilojoules too.

It's also worth remembering that one standard drink takes about 15 minutes of walking to burn off.

"You can reduce your alcohol intake by choosing light beer -- not to be confused with low-carb beer, which can have as many kilojoules as standard beer," she said.

"Also try alternating alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks like still or sparkling water, opt for smaller glasses, or try a wine spritzer."

In terms of final pointers, Murray recommends drinking water at the start of your meal to avoid overeating and to ensure you're not mistaking your thirst for hunger.

She also suggests chewing your food and placing your cutlery on your plate between mouthfuls, and avoiding those large, flavoured coffees to end a meal.