If you're trying to control your weight, frequent restaurant meals are usually the first to be banished. A wise decision, since many restaurants serve up high calorie foods in super-sized portions. Consider that a typical steak dinner - with the works - has 1000-plus calories and a plate of seafood pasta can deliver as many as 1200 calories (before the bread!). Even an entrée salad with chicken can deliver 800 calories or more.
The good news: with a series of strategies, it is possible to control and manage what and how much you eat in restaurants. But without a game plan, it's easy to eat more - and gain weight - without intending to.
Start by doing your homework. Many restaurants post nutrition numbers and other healthy eating tips on their websites. It's useful l information that can help you decide in advance what to order. I'm willing to bet if you knew in advance that the Keg's Crème Brule packs in 825 calories, you'd resist the temptation to order it. Knowing that Swiss Chalet's full rack of BBQ ribs has 1300 calories - and 900 milligrams of sodium - might prompt you to order a half rack.
Be assertive when dining out. If you don't know what's in a dish or don't know the serving size, ask. The following tips will help you make healthier choices in restaurants.
To cut fat, especially saturated fat
- When ordering grilled meat, fish or chicken, ask that it be grilled without butter or oil.
- Choose tomato-based pasta dishes rather than creamy ones. Alfredo and rose sauces are made with whip cream, which delivers a hefty amount of saturated fat.
- Stick with broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups and chowders. To increase your intake of fibre rich legumes, choose minestrone, lentil and bean soups most often.
- Order sandwiches made with whole grain bread instead of white bread or high fat croissants.
- Order steamed vegetables, green salad, or steamed brown rice instead of French fries.
- Ask for salsa with a baked potato instead of butter, sour cream, cheese or bacon.
- Watch out for healthy-sounding salads. Entree salads laden with cheese, bacon and plenty of dressing can have more fat and calories than an all-dressed burger.
- Request lower fat items even if they're not on the menu - fat-reduced salad dressings, salsa for a baked potato, or berries for dessert.
To reduce sodium
- Stay clear of menu items described as pickled, marinated, smoked, barbequed, smothered (in sauce), teriyaki, soy sauce, broth, miso, gravy, bacon, and of course, salted or salty. These words indicate higher sodium meals.
- Order dressings, gravies and condiments on the side. Salad dressings, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard and pickles can add considerably to the sodium content of a meal. Request them separate from your meal and use them sparingly. You'll save calories too.
- If ordering pizza, skip the processed meat toppings and order half the usual amount of cheese.
- Request your meal to be prepared without added salt, MSG or sodium containing ingredients such as soy sauce and broths.
To slim down portion size
- Ask that half your meal be boxed up "to go" before you start eating. If you leave it sitting on your plate you'll be more likely to eat it.
- Order two appetizers, or an appetizer and a side salad, instead of a large entrée. Consider sharing an entrée with a friend.
- Cut down on starchy side dishes. Skip the bread if the meal comes with rice, potato or pasta. Ask for extra vegetables instead of the potatoes or rice. Order a half portion of pasta.
- Slow your pace.After every bite, put down your knife and fork and chew your food thoroughly.
- Stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach has had enough food.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.