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Dine Out At Restaurants Your Way

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary!!  Yeah and a great big WOW!  With our anniversary and Valentine’s Day in a few days, we’ll celebrate as a family by going out to dinner this weekend.  I admit it – I love going out to dinner (breakfast and lunch too!!), the entire experience.  Having someone wait on me, prepare my meals, the fun and relaxed environment and being with those you love and enjoy their company.

Food is entertainment. In fact, the National Restaurant Association estimates that we eat almost six meals per week outside the home (about 290 times per year) — which means it’s important to know how to eat out and still stay trim.

The problem is that we go out to eat and want it to be a special occasion — and don’t want the fun spoiled by eating “healthy.” Many times, we leave our food inhibitions and healthy eating program in the parking lot or check it at the door.  If you enjoy dining out, an entire overhaul of your diet isn’t necessary.  A few small changes in the way you order can make a big difference. Even cutting a mere 100 calories every time you eat out can result in losing more than eight pounds in a year (290 x 100 calories = 29,000 calories, and 3,500 calories = 1 pound). Something as simple as NOT putting sour cream on your baked potato or skipping that bread basket can go a long way.

PLAN AHEAD: This step alone will help you stick to a healthy eating lifestyle.

  • Call the restaurant ahead of time to find out if healthier options are available, and/or check out the website. You can probably even place a special order in advance.  Decide on your menu choice before you leave home.  You won’t be tempted by the menu or enticing photos they show on the menu.
  • If no healthy options are available, nearly every restaurant will let you order grilled chicken, fish, or lean meat with some type of vegetable or salad.
  • Dine at an earlier or later time; special instructions don’t take as long if you eat during off-peak dining hours.
  • Be aware that it’s harder to make the “right” choices when dining out with a group of friends — don’t give in to “peer pressure.” Know what you want, decide what you want and stick to it.

EAT CONSCIOUSLY: Don’t just eat to eat. For many of us, this is how we prevent boredom until the real meal comes. To avoid being tempted, ask your server not to bring bread to the table. But if you must have a slice of bread, at least don’t smother it with butter or dip it in olive oil.

French bread (4 slices): 384 calories, 4g fat, 72g carbs
Garlic bread (4 slices): 545 calories, 21g fat, 75g carbs
Butter (2 pats): 72 calories, 8g fat, 0g carbs
Olive oil (2 tablespoons): 240 calories, 27g fat, 0g carbs

Snacking on peanuts or other bar treats to pass the time while waiting for your dining companions packs on unconscious and additional calories.

Peanuts (1/4 cup): 212 calories, 18g fat, 7g carbs
Tortilla chips (1 cup): 130 calories, 7g fat, 16g carbs
Pretzels (1 cup): 171 calories, 2g fat, 36g carbs

EAT BEFORE: Avoid going out to eat when you’re starving. Have a snack beforehand that is high in fiber, like an apple or some lean protein. Don’t skip meals before eating out thinking you’ll save calories; the hungrier you are, the more you will eat. Try drinking water before your meal — it will fill your stomach up a little.

AVOID LARGE PORTIONS: If you’re making the decision about where to eat, choose wisely. Steer clear of buffets and all-you-can-eat restaurants. If you know that the restaurant serves huge portions, don’t try to be a “diet hero” by assuming that you will not eat everything that you’re served. Just ask the server to wrap up half your portion in a take-out box.  You’ll have an extra menu for a following day.  You’ll get to enjoy your dining experience again.

SKIP THE FRIES AND PASTA: If you think you’re going to have “just one” or “a couple bites” and leave the rest, well, you’re mistaken. Just say no — to the side of fries or pasta, that is. Replace it with a healthy portion of broccoli steamed with garlic or other type of vegetable or salad.

French Fries (1 medium order): 450 calories, 22g fat, 57g carbs
Pasta with meat sauce (1 cup): 301 calories, 10g fat, 33g carbs

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK: Don’t refrain from asking your server questions or making special requests because you are embarrassed. You are the only one who will suffer. I often tell the server I’m allergic to certain foods or even go as far as saying I have a medical condition which I do.  I prefer not to dump and end up curled up under the table taking a dumping nap.  Remember, restaurants want you to be satisfied because your business is important to them — so don’t be shy. Ask how your dish is prepared even if it’s called “light” on the menu. Also, make sure to ask:
“Is this dish fried?”
“Can you make this dish without frying?”
“Can you steam the vegetables or fish?”
“What is the sauce made with?”
“Can you prepare this without the cheese/sauce?”
“Can you put the sauce on the side?”
“How large is the serving?”
“How many ounces is the beef, chicken, fish?”
“Can you make this dish without soy sauce or MSG?”

READ THE MENU: Look for any of the following: baked, grilled, broiled, poached, or steamed. These cooking techniques use less fat and are generally lower in calories. Avoid any of the following words: a la mode (with ice cream on the side), au gratin (covered with cheese), battered, bisque, breaded, buttered, cheese sauce, creamy or rich, crispy, deep-fried, deluxe, fried, hollandaise (sauce made of butter, egg yolks, and wine), jumbo, nuts, scalloped, sautéed (unless you make a special request for it to be prepared in a small amount of oil), and tempura.

ON THE SIDE: Ask for dressing, sauces, butter, or sour cream on the side, instead of on the dish itself.

Sour cream (2 tablespoons): 62 calories, 6g fat, 1g carbs
Thousand Island Dressing (2 tablespoons): 118 calories, 11g fat, 5g carbs
Caesar dressing (2 tablespoons): 155 calories, 17g fat, 1g carbs

LIQUID DONUTS: Don’t go overboard on the alcohol or drink at all — it adds excess calories and stimulates your appetite. Therefore, if you want a drink, have it with your meal, rather than before. Remember, other drinks (soda, juice, sweetened iced tea) add up too. Just two or three sodas have about 400 calories!

Dry table wine (8 oz): 165 calories, 0g fat, 3g carbs
Beer (12 oz): 148 calories, 0g fat, 13g carbs
Margarita in a pint glass: 676 calories, 0g fat, 43g carbs

The bottom line: Think before you dine out — your waistline and wallet will thank you.

Believe In Yourself,
Cathy, CLC
Certified Life Coach, Weight Loss Surgery Coach
Certified Back On Track Facilitator

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