Despite the recession, many Americans are still “making room” in their budget for weekly dinners or lunches out (sometimes more than once per week). I understand it’s nice to get out of the house and be served a tasty meal on occasion, but these days it’s much more difficult to make healthy choices when eating out. From my experience as a personal dietary consultant I have found that those clients who eat out more often have the toughest time losing weight. It makes sense, considering the serving sizes these days are astronomical, and even something as “innocent” as a salad or sandwich can have up to 1000 calories. The following are some important steps to follow when eating out if you are trying to watch your weight, and your health.
1) Look at the menu online before going out to a restaurant. No matter what. Try to make a decision before you go, therefore when you am out you can spend more time talking and socializing, rather than trying to decide the “healthiest” or “best” option. This also prevents you from being rushed and making a hasty decision, which can typically lead to choosing something that is not so healthy.
2) Follow the “1.5 extras” rule if you are trying to lose weight, and follow the “2 extras” rule if you are trying to maintain weight. What this means is that in addition to your meal, you can allow yourself 2 extras or 1.5 extras. What constitutes as an extra?
– One 12-ounce beer (light or not) or one martini or one glass of wine counts as 1 extra (a 16 ounce draft or a double shot martini or mixed drink counts as 1.5 extras)
– One small appetizer (something that couldn’t count as a meal) counts as 1 to 1.5 extras (you really have to be the judge). Splitting a larger, more caloric dense appetizer (such as quesadillas) counts as 2 extras (unless you get a really small entree, then this may count as 1.5 extras).
– One piece of bread or one serving of tortilla chips and dip counts as 1 extra. One and a half pieces of bread, or one and a half servings of chips counts as 1.5 extras. Two servings of one or the other counts as 2 extras.
– Splitting a reasonable sized dessert (I’m not talking a giant ice cream sundae served over a brownie with fudge) counts as 1 extra. Having an entire dessert to yourself (reasonable size, such as a small piece of cheesecake) counts as 2 extras.
3) When you order your main meal ask for all veggies as a side, if you have the option, instead of whatever they have to offer (this is especially important if you have gone over your allotment of “extras”). If the menu doesn’t say “Vegetable” under sides, always ask. Another option might be no sides at all. This is ok too, because when you pay for a meal you are really not paying for the sides, you are paying for the burger, the steak, the chicken, or whatever the main course is. The sides maybe cost $1.00.
4) Always ask for sauces and dressings on the side. NO MATTER WHAT. All restaurants are different. Some may smother your food in sauce and dressing, while others may not (but the former is typical). You never know, so play it safe and always ask for it to be on the side. I do this with sandwiches, salads, steaks, chicken dishes, and pretty much everything else in between.
5) If you really want to be extra careful, also ask for any vegetables to be steamed and not smothered in butter or oil. You can do this anywhere! You can even ask for light brown sauce when you go to Chinese restaurants (in fact I would advise this).
Check out this article in Columbus Parent Magazine, for which I was interviewed, to find even more great tips!
Tomorrow (or Friday) I will post all of your fantastic tips. I know you have some, so please share!