Restaurants help customers lighten up

Losing weight is hard enough without having to negotiate the pitfalls of dining out, where large portions, hidden calories and the dessert tray provide temptations a’plenty. Now, a handful of restaurants want to make it easier. The Louisiana 2 Step and the Louisiana Restaurant Association are encouraging restaurants statewide to create diet-friendly experiences. A handful of restaurants have signed up, with more expected to join the movement soon.

Baton Rouge’s Mansur’s on the Boulevard (5920 Corporate Blvd.) was the first. While you can still savor this hot spot’s decadently-sauced fresh fish and signature crčme brulee du jour, the chef will graciously prepare your fish simply and healthfully upon request. Other Capital City restaurants have signed up as well, including Tropical Smoothie Café (13711 Coursey Blvd.) and Fresh Salads and Wraps (501 Main St. inside Main Street Market).

The Louisiana 2 Step, developed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, aims to reduce the number of overweight Louisianans through two simple steps: eating less and moving more. Its interactive Web site, louisiana2step.com, features food diaries, personal coaches, ideas for burning calories and a list of statewide restaurants where you can “Do the 2.”

Here are some 2 Step tips for making smart choices while eating out:

• Try bread without butter or margarine.

• Avoid filling up on complimentary appetizers.

• Choose clear soups.

• Choose steamed, grilled or broiled dishes as often as possible.

• Fruit-based desserts are healthier.

• Don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to box half your meal.

• Remember healthy portion sizes by visualizing everyday items.

Rice and pasta: one cup = tennis ball

Meat, fish and poultry: three ounces = deck of cards