Eating Out doesn't have to mean Pigging Out!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Articles of the day: Healthy Restaurant Eating by the USDA, America's Healthiest Restaurants

Your refrigerator is stocked with lean meats, the pantry is full of whole grain goodies, and the fruit basket is piled high with in season fruit. All is safe and healthy at home, but what happens when your best friend calls you up for a dinner date? Are you going to turn them down so you don't have to deal with the temptations brought on by eating out? Of course your not! Life is about living, not locking yourself up in your house with your skinless chicken breasts and frozen broccoli! When I decided to write a blog about how to eat out without ruining your diet, I quickly realized there was way too much to talk about for just one post, so I decided to break it in to three (that seems to be the magic number lately). Section one, will cover what to do before you go the restaurant and right when you sit down. Section two will cover what to order and do during the meal, and section three will be completely devoted to fast food.

Although I know we all cook delicious healthy meals at home all the time (I'm being sarcastic), according to the the US Department of Agriculture, Americans eat 29% of our meals away from home. An even scarier statistic is from the National Restaurant Association, it states that we spend 44% of our food budget eating out. If we are spending that much money dining out, don't you think we should get our food exactly how we want it?

Making a Smart Choice
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat places. These places can derail your diet faster than you can say Golden Corral!
  • Choose a place that offers a lot of variety. This gives you a better chance of finding something healthy that you actually like.
  • Don't decide to eat out on the spur of the moment. If you know you are going to eat out for dinner, you can adjust what you eat earlier in the day to compensate.
  • Try to avoid restaurants that promote "entertainment" as part of the eating experience. Most of these are full of fried, fatty or greasy dishes. Think Chuck-E-Cheese or Gattiland.
  • Stay away from restaurants with mascots.

The Healthy Dining Finder can help you find the healthiest places to eat in your neighborhood. Simply type in your zip code and presto healthy dining options at your finger tips! They will even help you find the nutrition information for most menu items. Talk about your dining out secret weapon.

Preparation is Key
  • Surf the web. Most restaurants have their menus on the Internet. If not have them fax you one. Even better try and find the nutrition facts for your favorite restaurant. You would be shocked at how many calories some "healthy sounding" dishes contain!
  • Try to decide what you want to eat before you even leave the house. These will help you not cave to temptation.
  • Make reservations. This will cut down on wait time so you're not starving by the time you sit down.
  • When you make reservations ask what they fry their food in. This can be eye opening.
  • Know how much of your calorie budget you have to spend, but don't starve yourself!
  • Don't leave the house ravenous. Around 1-2 hours before dinner, have a small healthy snack to avoid devouring the bread or chip basket.

The Critical Moment (when you sit down)
  • Politely send back those freebies they give you. Yes, I am talking about the bread basket, rolls, and tortilla chips. Many people forget how many calories these contain. You can end up consuming over 500 calories before your meal even arrives.
  • Now if you think my previous statement is completely ridiculous, put one serving of the freebie on a small plate and then send them back. This way you eat only one roll or a few chips and not the whole basket.
  • Also, don't be afraid to ask if they have whole grain bread, or rye crackers. They just might surprise you!
  • Just say no to butter!!!
  • If you are at a Mexican restaurant, opt for salsa over cheesy fatty queso and guacamole.
  • Order a large glass of water ASAP, and spice it up with lemon or lime. Much of what we mistake for hunger is simply dehydration, so drink up!
  • There is no reason to torture yourself. If there are large dessert menus with delicious looking pictures on it on your table, turn it upside down or give it to your server.
Order Wisely
  • Order first. You don't want to be swayed by what others order.
  • Don't be shy about asking questions or making requests. It is your food so get it how you want.
  • Try ordering things a la carte. Platters and combo meals are are calorie bomb shells!
  • Ask how large a dish is, and consider ordering the lunch portion if available.
  • Beware of the four C's- Crunchy, Cheesy, Crispy, and Creamy!
  • Ask for your food to be prepared without butter, cream sauces or oil.
  • Taste the rainbow! When in doubt go for colorful foods. Most high-calorie, high-fat foods are brown, beige, white or pale yellow (minus dessert).
  • Don't let the waiter or your fellow dinner mates rush you. Take your time and explore all of your options.
Remember these tips next time you go out to dinner, and any restaurant can be a diet friendly!

Yours truly,

Lauren G.
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2 Responses to “Eating Out doesn't have to mean Pigging Out!”

  1. I love it! These are the kinds of things I need to put on a quick reference in my purse so I can get a quick Clif's Notes version before stepping into my favorite restaurant.

  2. Hmm I like that! Clif's Notes for healthy restaurant dining! Maybe I will write a book next!


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