By Tina HaupertBefore I found my Feel Great Weight, I used to dread dining out. Every time I'd go to a restaurant, I'd stress about the menu. How could I lose weight when many of the menu selections were high in calories and many of the portion sizes were huge?

But dining out is always a treat for me, so I didn't want to completely restrict myself either. I knew that it would be tough to find something healthy, yet satisfying. However, over the years, I've discovered some tips and tricks to best navigate the dinner menu. Here's my no-fail guide to eating out.Getty Images

AppetizerBefore: Chips and salsa, loaded nachos, spinach-artichoke dip

Usually, I'd share an appetizer with my husband or my friends, but I'd end up eating more than everyone else. Cheesy, greasy appetizers are my favorite, so, not surprisingly, I had trouble stopping myself after having a few. Hello, tortilla chips!

Now: A veggie side

Most restaurants offer a side of grilled or roasted vegetables, usually served as a reasonable-size portion. Instead of a high-calorie appetizer, I order a side dish from the menu. I don't feel deprived when everyone else is munching away, and I get some added nutrients in my diet. My favorites are roasted asparagus or sweet potato fries.

EntréeBefore: A salad with grilled chicken and dressing on the side

I thought I was doing the right thing by ordering a salad as my entrée, but a huge slab of chicken breast and high-calorie dressing on the side weren't saving me any calories, especially when I finished everything on my plate. Even though I was eating a salad, the portion size was much too large.

Now: A soup and salad combo

A combo dinner essentially gives me two different meals to enjoy, making it seem like I am eating more without consuming a ton of calories. Soup and salad are both filling options, so I never feel unsatisfied after eating them.

DessertBefore: A brownie sundae

I would finish off a brownie sundae all by myself, no problem. I thought a night out deserved a special treat at the end of the meal. Still, those extra large splurges did nothing for my waistline.

Now: A brownie sundae with two spoons and a mug of hot tea

I share a dessert with my husband or a friend and order a hot, herbal tea to go along with it. The tea is a reminder to slow down and enjoy each spoonful. Plus, the sweetness from the tea helps tame my sweet tooth!

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots 'N' Cake.