Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rules for Eating Out

Lifestyle changes are always hard in the beginning! Heck, any change is hard!  Just because you are making lifestyle changes when it comes to eating healthier does not mean you have to give EVERYTHING up.  I  often hear that people miss eating out at their favorite restaurants and I ask them why? Their answer is the menu does not have anything that they are "aloud" to eat.  Are you sure about that? Maybe they and maybe you need to learn some rules for eating out so you can still enjoy that luxury AND stay on track with your healthy diet.  You can dine out successfully and enjoy your experience by learning how to navigate any menu. 

Want to learn how?  Here are some "rules" that will help you eat smart while dining out.

1.  Know before you go.  Most restaurants these days you can go online and look at their menus.  You can see what dishes look healthy - grilled items, salads, vegetable sides, and so forth.  Decide before you go what you will order and stick to your decision once you get there.  Collect the menus in the restaurants you frequent and you will have them to refer to next time.  You can also plug in the meal with the myfitness pal app and most of the time you can find out the calories and nutrition facts for most restaurant meals.  

2.  Sit in a quiet spot.  Nobody knows this, but the people who sit in the more distracting parts of the restaurants (by a window or in front of a TV) eat considerably more.  Commotion makes it easy to lose tack of how much you are putting in your mouth.  If you are making a reservation, request a quiet table.  If you walk in and are offered a table in a busier spot, ask for the one away from the action.  Your waistline will thank you!

3.  Be the FIRST to Order.  You have decided to pick something healthy off the menu for dinner, but your friend orders the decadent steak fries.  You might then rethink your original decision.  To sidestep that temptation of your friend's less healthy dish, place your order first.  If you cannot order first, them make your decision, close the menu, and repeat your selection to yourself to help you stick with it.  YOU CAN DO IT!! If you are dining at a restaurant you visit often, just ask for your favorite healthy option without ever opening the menu.  Temptations are always going to be there, stay strong in your decision!!

4.  Have it your way.  Before ordering your selections, ask the server about the details of the meal.  This will help you make more informed choices.  Some questions to ask include: How is this dish prepared? Can it be modified? What ingredients are used? Do you have any low-fat or low-calorie options?  What comes with this meal? Can I make substitutions?  How large are the portions?  DO NOT be afraid to ask questions or make special requests.  For example, ask that food be served with minimal butter, margarine, or oil.  Ask if a particular dish can be broiled or baked rather than fried.  Also, ask that no additional salt be added to your food. For veggies ask that they be steamed rather than cooked with butter and oil.  

You may also be able to make substitutions.  If the ingredients are on the menu, the chef should be able to accommodate your needs.  A common substitution is a baked potato for fries or a double serving of vegetables instead of a starch.  If your dish does not arrive at the table the way you ordered it, do not be afraid to send it back.  

If you do not see something you like, ask for it.  As a paying customer, you have the right to eat not only what tastes good but what's good for you.  Be "weight assertive"!

5.  Do NOT be seduced by menu descriptions.  Mouth-watering descriptions like "tender, juicy chicken breast" or "ripe heirloom tomatoes" are increasingly common on restaurant menus.  Be aware of sensory terms like "velvety" mousse and nostalgic ones like "legendary" spaghetti and meatballs.  Research shows that words that promote taste and texture or appeal to diners' emotions can increase sales, and can even influence the way you think your food tastes.  Words like these prep your taste buds to expect your chicken to taste juicy, so to some degree it probably will.

Make a game out of picking the colorful adjectives on the menu.  See who can find the most in three minutes.  If you win, everyone buys you dinner. That's the rule of the game!

6. Stay away from snacking.  The most damage often occurs before the actual meal begins with appetizer trays and bread baskets.  Also these snacks take away your appetite for the healthiest foods to come.  Avoid them!!!! Even the freebies like chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants or basket of rolls and butter can pile up fat and calories that you do not need. If you cannot exercise control, have your server remove the temptation!

7.  Make a meal out of appetizers.  Certain appetizers can be excellent choices for an entree.  The portion size of appetizers are more appropriate than the extremely large portions provided in entrees.  Consider healthy options such as steamed seafood (for example, shrimp cocktail), salads that are not loaded with high fat ingredients (such as, cheese and bacon), grilled vegetables, and broth based soups. You might also choose to combine the appetizer with a salad.  The salad will bulk up the meal so that you feel more satisfied without adding a lot of calories.  Be aware that some appetizers, particularly fried fare or items covered in cheeses, oils, and cream sauces are more than likely overloaded with calories and fat.  Some fried appetizers can provide a days worth of fat to four people!!!!

8.  Be Salad Savvy!  A salad can be your meal's best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you toss it.  Pile on fresh greens, beans, and veggies.  Do not drown it with high fat dressings or toppings like cheese, bacon, or croutons.  Pick calorie friendly dressings like vinaigrettes, low calorie dressings, even a generous squeeze of fresh lemon.  

Remember too that you can gain control over the fat and calories in your salad by ordering the dressing on the side.  Measure out a small amount of dressing with your spoon, or with thicker salad dressing use the fork dipping method.  What is the fork dipping method?  Dip the tines of your salad fork in the dressing, then spear the leaves of your salad.  This way, you get a taste of the dressing with eat bite of salad but you are not overloading your salad with dressing.  

Also watch out for potato salad, macaroni salads, coleslaw, and even tuna and chicken salads, which usually are heavy in mayonnaise, sugar, and calories.  

9.  Go low on sides.  Substitute high calorie side dishes with low fat options such as steamed veggies, brown rice, or fresh fruit.  Forget the french fries and have a baked, boiled, or roasted potatoes, but leave off the butter, cheese, and creams.  Flavor with salsa, pepper, or chives instead.

10. Choose low fat preparation methods.  The way your entree is prepared influences its calories and fat content.  Choose grilled, broiled, or baked meats and entrees.  Pan-friend and deep-fried food give you extra fat you do not need.  Broiling, baking, steaming, poaching, and grilling seafood, skinless poultry, lean meat, and veggies give you all the flavor without the fat.  
For example, grilled chicken is lower in fat and calories than fried chicken.  If you are served chicken with skin, you can remove the skin to save significant fat and calories.  It is not easy to get rid of ALL fat in restaurant meals, but give it a try.  Ask the server if the butter or oil used to prepare your entree can be reduced or eliminated.  Even a grilled item may have extra fat added.  Some grilled beef dishes call for added oil.

11. Enjoy alcohol in moderation.  Drinks can be diet killers!!!! Ice water is free.  Fancy mixed drinks are not free and have a ton of empty calories and the alcohol can dull your reasoning. Since alcohol can contribute significant amounts of calories, limiting your intake to 150 calories' worth is a good idea. The following portions of alcohol each contain approximately 150 calories or less: 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor, and 12 oz. of light beer.

Many people find it helpful to order wine by the glass rather than the bottle so they can better control and monitor their intake.  You can decide ahead of time at which point in the meal your beverage would be most satisfying.  For example, you may want to save your glass of wine for your entree and sip water while you wait for your meal.  Holding off on alcohol until a later course also helps to decrease alcohol's effect on your inhibitions.  If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it can relax you to the point that you lose sight of your game plan.  Setting a personal limit and planning when to enjoy your beverage should help you stick with your goals.

12. Practice portion control.  Restaurants serve mountains of food - about two to three times the quantity that we need in a meal.  This is no big secret! All you need to do is not finish those mega-size portions.  Consider sharing a meal or taking a doggie bag so that you can have a quick meal at a later time. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed, and take the rest home.  As you are eating, listen to your internal hunger signals and stop when you have had enough.  Eating slowly helps you recognize such cues.

Keep track of how much you eat, and stick to the number of servings you planned to eat.  You probably won't be bringing a scale with you to the restaurant so that you can measure out portions, but you can rely on visual references.

Here are some examples:
a. A serving of cook meat, chicken, or fish is like the palm of your hand, or about the size of a deck of cards.
b.  A serving of green salad is like and open-cupped hand.
c.  A serving of fruit or vegetables is like your fist, or about the size of a tennis ball.
d. A serving of baked potato looks like a baseball.
e. An ounce of cheese is like your middle and index fingers together, or about the size of four stacked dice.  
f.  A serving of salad dressing is like your thumb.
g. A 3-ounce hamburger patty is the size of a quart size mayonnaise jar lid.

13.  Practice the three bite rule.  Try to satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit, and that is it!  Wave off the dessert cart.  Sometimes that is easier said than done.  If you must have that dessert share with someone but always practice the three bit rule.  Have three bites and your are done!  You might even discover that those few bites of a great dessert can be very satisfying and might be all your really wanted in the first place.  You cannot possibly blow your diet big-time on three bites of anything.  After your three bites, you can ask the server to take it away unless your dinner mates want to scarf it down.  

Always remember you changed your lifestyle because you cared about your BODY! 

You can still enjoy life's pleasures but use these rules to guide you along your way when eating out!!  Any questions or you need additional help feel free to message me at

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