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The question

It's patio season, and I've been working on my weight loss all winter long. Can you provide strategies that allow me to go out after work, meet friends on a patio but not pack on the pounds?

The answer

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Socializing after work on restaurant patios can spell trouble for weight control. Appetizers and alcohol: Both can add hundreds of calories to your day.

I recently wrote about restaurant appetizers. Who knew that an order of nachos has 2070 calories? (At Kelsey's.) Or that the Feta and Spinach Dip at Earl's delivers 942 calories and 50 grams of fat?

Since you've done such a good job at losing weight this winter, you certainly don't want to undo your hard work. To maintain your weight, you're going to have to make some smart choices - especially if patios are a regular part of your summer routine.

Chances are, you'll share an appetizer with friends. That will help to bring your calorie intake down. If you can sway the order, stay clear of appetizers with sky-high calorie counts like nachos, chicken wings, cheesy dips, and oily, cheesy flatbreads. Appetizers that feature shrimp, scallops, chicken breast and vegetables tend to have fewer calories. Sushi and edamame are also good choices.

Even so, if you plan to share a few appetizers and then go home to eat dinner you will consume more calories than you need. Consider ordering a healthy dinner on the patio rather than sharing appetizers. (On many restaurant menus there is usually a far greater selection of entrees that are not deep-fried or otherwise laden in fat than there are appetizers.) That way you don't need to eat when you get home.

If you decide to go the appetizer route, consider your snacks as dinner. (Calorie-wise, a few shared appetizers will be at least a dinner's worth of calories.)

You also need to control your alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages not only provide calories, they also reduce your inhibitions or general awareness of how much you're eating. And drinking on an empty stomach can trigger food cravings.

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Limit yourself to one drink per hour. Drinking more often will result in a higher blood alcohol concentration. To slow your pace, drink two glasses of water in between drinks. Save calories by ordering cocktails made with a calorie-free mixer, like soda water or diet cola. If you drink wine, order a white wine spritzer to dilute calories.

You also need to set your limit beforehand: Resolve ahead of time that you'll have only two drinks, then switch to water.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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