Sticking to your diet when you’re eating at a restaurant can be tricky, even if they respect all your dietary needs and wishes. If the trouble in your weight loss program is the fact that you eat too few home cooked meals, you can still make progress by sticking to a few rules.

Check out the best weight loss tips for eating out, and you won’t have to turn down invitations just because you don’t think you can stick to your plan when the menu and the bread sticks are a constant temptation.

Be Prepared

Deciding what you’re going to eat before you get there is one of the wisest things you can do in order to stick to your diet. If the restaurant or the diner doesn’t have a website, you can wing it the first time, but always pick up a take out menu when you leave. Look for the healthiest options on the menu and choose the one that sounds the most appetizing right now.

Stick to Portion Control

Even when you’re eating at a restaurant that’s serving only light dishes, portions are probably still much bigger than you need for a meal. Based on how big the portion is, stop once you finish between 50% and 75% of what’s on your plate. Knowing when to stop and taking the rest with you in a doggy bag is one of the best weight loss tips for eating out.

Avoid the Extra Calories

It’s up to you to make the right choices when you order, don’t let yourself get fooled by “light” or “healthy” options. Sometimes light can mean low-carb, but high fat. Any dish that’s described as Alfredo, breaded, battered, smothered, or features gravy and cream sauce is usually a calorie bomb, so pay attention to these descriptions.

Eating Out Healthy Food Tips

Know Your Low-Fat Cooking Methods

Sticking to grilled is one of the best weight loss tips for eating out, but you can also opt for baked, steamed, poached, or broiled dishes. Make sure that you avoid anything pan-fried in order to keep your calorie intake under control, and remove any fatty portions of a steak before you start eating. Also skip the chicken skin.

More: 10 Good Reasons to Give Up Coffee

Don’t Be Afraid of Substitutions

Restaurants are more and more open to their clients’ needs, so don’t be afraid to ask for small tweaks that make a big difference in your diet. Stick to whole grains instead of refined ones, and swap fatty side dishes with options like steamed vegetables. When you’re ordering a pasta dish, remember that tomato sauces are usually less fatty than white creamy ones.

Streamline Your Salad

One of the best weight loss tips for eating out is to always order any salad with the dressing on the side. If you’re dealing with a salad bar, stick to vegetables and greens and opt for the low-fat dressing on the side. Crutons can also contain more fats and calories than you think, so try to avoid them or eat them in moderation.

Pick the Best Table for Your Needs

A quiet spot is always better when you’re trying to enjoy a meal. If you’re right by the window or in a busy spot in a restaurant, you might actually end up eating more. By avoiding the commotion, you’ll be able to focus better on enjoying your meal and any conversation.

Skip the Entree

Appetizers usually come in a much more suitable portion size, and there’s nothing that’s preventing you from making a meal out of two of them and skipping the entree all together. This can be one of the best weight loss tips for eating out, as long as you make the right choices and avoid the fried and fatty ones.

Healthy Veggie Pizza

Choose the Right Protein

From skinless chicken to less fatty cuts of beef and pork, your protein of choice is also very important when you’re on a diet. Cold water fish is a great option, and so is any cut of beef with “loin” or “round” in the name. Just remember that your portion control goals are very different from the restaurant’s so stick to a 5-ounce portion and take the rest with you when you leave.

See also: 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Eat All Day

Always Order First

One of the best weight loss tips for eating out, whether you’re sharing the meal with a friend or more, is to always order first. Once you know what you want, get your order out first so you’re not tempted to change it to something that sounds delicious, but will also mess up your calorie goal.