Nothing is harder than staying lean when your health and welfare is at the hands of a series of short-order cooks and Hell's Kitchen wannabes. Your taste buds are their concern; your health isn't. But that doesn't mean that to stay slim, you have to be a culinary wallflower. Here are some secrets for eating healthfully even when a stranger is doing the cooking.

And for even more ways to upgrade your diet and get lean for good, check out The Lean Belly Prescription by Dr. Travis Stork, host of TV's The Doctors. It's filled with simple strategies that will help you lose weight the same way you gained it: By making easy lifestyle choices that will transform your body -- this time, for the better.

Lean Belly Restaurant Rules Slideshow


Kick 'Em In The Bread Basket

A study published in Physiology & Behavior showed that people who ate a protein-heavy appetizer consumed an average of 16 percent fewer calories in their entrees than those who raided the bread basket. Pass on the rolls and ask for a shrimp cocktail instead. (Check out these 37 Protein-Packed Recipes for a delicious way to get your muscle-building fix.)


Beware Of The Booze

Because your body sees alcohol as a toxin, it works to burn those calories first -- meaning that the calories in the food you eat alongside the booze are more likely to be stored as fat. And liquor makes you eat quicker, too. When researchers in the Netherlands gave people a pre-meal treat of booze, food, water, or nothing, those who got the booze ate an average of 192 extra calories. (Down these 4 Secretly Dangerous Drinks at your own peril!)


Ignore the Combo Mumbo Jumbo

At every fast-food restaurant, as soon as you decide on an entree, you'll be asked some variation of this question: "Would you like to make it a combo meal?" Of course, you're tempted -- who can pass up a bargain? But when you upgrade, you're just paying a little more money for a lot more calories -- that's like giving the garbage man a tip to bring more trash to your house! People who take the upsell spend an average of 17 percent more money and receive an average of 55 percent more calories. You don't want them! (Discover the surprising ways fast food can screw with your brain.)


Focus On The Foundations

What distinguishes a skinny pizza from an inflationary pizza? It's not the pepperoni, or the cheese. It's the crust. Three deep-dish slices from Domino's, before toppings, will cost you 1,002 calories. Downsize that to thin crust and you just eliminated 420 calories without lifting a finger -- or giving up pizza! (Eat more, stay full longer, and still lose serious weight with these 7 Ways to Outsmart Hunger.)


Side With Sides

Some of the best nutritional bargains at many restaurants are found on the side items menu. Black beans and rice, roasted vegetables, and mixed greens are among the best bets. Many times, two side orders will do half the damage as one entrée! (In addition, you're right not to trust so- called "healthy" options. Order smart with these 7 Rules of Healthy Fast Food.)

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