This is one of my all time favorite topics. I leave and breathe eating out – and I watch my weight like a hawk. I went with Weight Watchers in Feb 2002 – lost 30 pounds by June 2002 – and have kept it off for over 11 years now. Clearly – I’m pretty pound of that accomplishment. I weigh what I weighed in High School. Rocking Grannie!
BUT – there’s a price to pay in staying slim and eating out more nights than I eat in – and I call it the menu game. And like all games, there are rules.
Step 1: Before sitting down – Choose your price point and be sure that the restaurant offers options that will work. For example – if you are thinking of spending about $20 per person – the average price for the entries on the menu should be $10 to $15. The wine, the dessert, the tip and taxes will bounce a $10 entry up to $20 in a blink of the eye.
Step 2: Choose your cuisine – A study by the folks at Tufts School of Nutrition has determined that there are ‘better’ cuisines and ‘worse’ cuisines from an average calorie point of view. Not surprisingly, Vietnamese and Japanese have the lowest average calories when their most popular dishes were analyzed, while Italian, American and Chinese have the highest average calorie counts. (Check out the exact numbers in the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Susan Roberts, Director of the HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory. Susan Roberts also is the author of “The “i” Diet” (www.myidiet.com))
Step 3: Try not to arrive famished. This is so hard to avoid, and so critical to keeping control over how much you eat. The other day I ended up devouring almost 1/2 of a delicious milk shake because I was just too hungry when I walked in to remember to ask for water.
Step 4: Always ask for water first – and always drink it before ordering. Then you can focus on what you are ordering, and not ‘shop hungry’.
Step 5: Plan ahead – and either order a small portion – or try to put 1/2 away before you start eating. Restaurants, particularly smaller ones at lower price points, serve way too much food. In fact, those crazy folks at the Tufts Nutrition School cited above studied calorie counts and determined that average meals in 33 randomly selected smaller restaurants in the Boston area ended up weighing in at an astounding 1,327 calories per meal – that’s about twice a normal meal, and more calories than I normal consume in a day. More distressing – fully 73% of the meals they analyzed in their study contained more than 1/2 the daily recommended calories per day for an adult. No wonder we get fat eating out. So plan on take out – every time you eat out. In fact 12 of the 157 meals analyzed actually contained more than 2000 calories – the calories recommended for an entire day
Step 5: Be a fussy eater! Ask for all sauces and all salad dressings to be served ‘on the side’. That way you can control how much of the most fattening things get in your stomach!
Step 6: Don’t order what you really shouldn’t eat. If you don’t order the french fries – you won’t be tempted. Don’t ruin fish (something you should try to eat at least twice a week) by getting it fried, and if you order steak – order the small portion.
Step 7: Put your fork down between bites. This works for any meal – home cooked, or eaten out. Study after study has shown that it takes time for your tummy to register ‘full’, and it’s easy to eat so fast that you go past that point. In fact – this is why I love tasting menus. The time delay between the courses gives my body time to decide how hungry I still am.
Step 8: Carry food with you – and eat it when you get hungry! I always have a small resealable container of almonds with me. They are the perfect snack – not terribly high in calories, take effort to eat (if it goes down fast – it didn’t count is false!)
Well there you have it – 8 easy steps to eating Smart when eating Out.