Eating out used to be a special treat for most American families, but now, with busier-than-ever lives, we tend to eat out often. Since restaurants are notorious for their huge portions, and chefs liberally use butter, salt and sugar in their dishes to make them taste good, we need to be very careful when we eat out – anything other than a once-in-a-while splurge will cause weight gain. Here are a few tips for dining out while staying healthy:
1. Cut portions in half. Immediately upon receiving your meal, ask for a to-go bag and place exactly half in the bag. Restaurant portion sizes are so big these days, most entrees can be split into two and each half would still be fairly high in calories.
2. Skip the soda. In fact, if you completely cut soda out of your life, you would probably lose weight without making any other change to your diet and exercise habits. When dining out, the last thing you need is the added sugar and calories in soda. Diet sodas are not much better – they contain harmful ingredients and some research shows they too contribute to weight gain. Try to get used to drinking water. Sparkling water with a wedge of lime are very good.
3. Ask for the dressing on the side. Of course your salad will taste better with some dressing, but you don’t really need the 1/3 cup they’ll pour on it back in the kitchen. Ask for the dressing on the side, and use 2 tablespoons rather than the whole thing.
4. Consider replacing the starch with a veggie. Many meat dishes are served with a starch and a veggie. I often ask the server to hold the starch and double the veggies instead. The vast majority if restaurants are happy to oblige, though some charge a little extra.
5. Say no to supersizing. Whether at a fast food restaurant or at the movie theater (where they often try to entice you to get a larger popcorn), never agree to supersize. You absolutely do not need the extra calories.
6. Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol is very calorie-dense, and it can also cause you to let your guard down and consume more than you had intended. One glass of red wine with your dinner is fine for most an might even offer some health benefits. More than that is asking for trouble.
7. Split dessert. At the end of your meal, you’re probably very full. You don’t really need dessert, especially not the typical 800-plus-calories restaurant dessert. So share a dessert with at least one more person, or – better yet – ask for a bowl of berries for dessert.