By Denis Faye

You're working late at the office. It's time for dinner, but there's a problem. You're in the middle of your P90X® program, and a big, greasy restaurant meal will throw your precision diet into complete chaos.

"But wait," you think, "aren't there restaurant meals listed in the back of the handy dandy P90X Nutrition Plan?" Yes, but you open it up and . . . d'oh! It's all fast food! You're with a client and you don't want to slum it!

Relax. You'll be fine. I'll talk you through this difficult situation.

The first thing you need to do is use common sense. Here's a quick list of things that'll help you survive any restaurant.
  1. Go for the chicken or fish.
  2. Avoid fried food.
  3. Unless it's veggies, salad, or fruit, skip the side dish.
  4. Pasta? Avoid cream sauces and just eat half your portion.
  5. No bread, except if you're having a sandwich. And get whole wheat.
  6. Ask for the salad dressing on the side and use it sparingly.
If you do this, you'll probably find yourself with a remarkably stripped-down meal that'll be easy to judge. Here's how to do that.
  1. Piece of meat = 2 protein portions.
  2. Side of veggies or salad = 1 veggie portion per side dish.
  3. Salad dressing can count as 1 condiment portion if you limit the serving to 2 tablespoons.
  4. If you ignored my extra side dish advice, count that as 1 carb portion.
  5. If there's any kind of sauce or marinade on your meat, add 1 condiment portion.
  6. Add 1 fat portion. Restaurants are notorious for sneaking fat and sodium into food. That's why it tastes so good.
  7. In the event that you are 100 percent, categorically certain that there's no hidden fat in your meal, skip step 5 and add 1 condiment portion, simply because I don't trust those restaurant guys. I'm certain they snuck something in there. Trust me. I'm paranoid so that you don't have to be.
So, for example, let's take Denny's Grilled Tilapia. Here's how they describe it on the menu: a mild, white fish filet seasoned and grilled, then placed on a bed of savory vegetable rice pilaf. Served with your choice of two sides and dinner bread.

We have our fish, so that's 2 protein portions. The vegetable rice pilaf is 1 carb portion and 1 veggie portion. The corn and tomato slices are 1 veggie portion each. Let's call that 1 carb portion and 1 veggie portion. There doesn't seem to be a lot of fat going on here, so we'll skip the fat portion. However, the pilaf is savory, which implies a sauce, so let's add 1 condiment portion.

Here's where we end up.

Fit Fare Grilled Tilapia with Rice Pilaf, Corn, and Tomato Slices

3 veggie portions
2 protein portions
1 carb portion
1 condiment portion
  1. Calories: 600
  2. Protein: 58 g
  3. Carbs: 66 g
  4. Fat Total: 11 g
Simple, huh?
Of course, don't limit yourself to major chain restaurants. In fact, they usually cater to the lowest common denominator, so you'll probably have better luck finding healthier food at an independent restaurant specializing in fresh fare for more selective customers.
Unfortunately, I haven't spent much time in your neighborhood, so I don't really know much about your local joints. I do, however, have access to quite a bit of information about several national chains, thanks to the Internet. Here are a few examples to get you started. You'll note the nutrition information under the portion information. Many restaurants provide that on request. Don't be afraid to ask.