Eating out - Archives

Simple Substitutions Save Calories

Our habits inform what we eat and drink, but if you think about what you’re doing at each meal when you’re eating out, you can easily find ways to cut calories.
    •    Ask for skim milk instead of cream in your coffee.
    •    Hold the mayo and ask for mustard instead.
    •    Eat only one piece of the bread on your sandwich.
    •    Order steamed brown rice instead of fried rice or white rice.
    •    Skip the bacon, cheese and sour cream on a baked potato.
    •    Order grilled fish instead of fried.

Stay on the Move When You Dine Out

Three simple ways to incorporate more physical activity into your dining experience:
Walk to the restaurant. Choose a restaurant that's within a mile of your home or office. The walk should take you about 15 minutes each way, helping you to burn calories before and after you eat.

Walk with a buddy or two. Walking and talking with others makes the time go by so quickly you won’t even feel like you’ve exercised. Don’t forget the benefits of a stroll after eating to help your digestion.

Park as far as you can from door when you drive. Park your car in a space at the far end of the restaurant’s parking lot. When you make your occasional visit to a fast food place, don’t take the drive thru lane. Park the car and go inside to order.

Choose Appetizers Wisely

The items on the Appetizers menu in most restaurants are very tasty, but can be high in fat and calories. Look for healthier choices, such as lettuce wraps, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell, stuffed mushrooms, crabcakes, edamame (soybean pods) or grilled meat and vegetable kabobs.

Swap Salad or Veggies for Fatty Side Dishes

When eating out, ask for an extra side of steamed vegetables or a small salad instead of the typical calorie-laden side dish of macaroni and cheese, baked potato, onion rings and the like. Choosing vegetables over high carb dishes will make you feel less sleepy after eating, too.

Hot & Spicy

Enjoy a hot & spicy Curry Dish on occasion…

Hot, spicy foods containing chillies or cayenne pepper trigger endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Endorphins have a powerful, almost narcotic, effect and are what make you feel good after exercising.
But go easy on the lamb, pork and the high-fat, creamy dishes served in many Indian restaurants.

Sharing Is Caring

You don’t necessarily need a full restaurant serving of something rich and decadent—like French fries or chocolate cake, for instance—to feel satisfied. If you are tempted by such calorie-rich foods, keep your portion in check by sharing a small serving with your dining companion. Just think, a portion of restaurant-style French fries can be around 600 calories—sharing lets you save 300 calories and still get your French-fry fix!


A new ‘superfood’ to look for on the menu is Chia Seeds.
Many restaurants are added these little seeds to dishes to provide you added nutrients but the real benefit is its ability to help you feel full.  Chia Seeds are very high in Omega 3’s, they have loads of fiber (5g per serving), and nice bump of protein (3g)—and its capacity to expand in your stomach & intestines provide stamina, endurance, and a feeling of satiety. It contains all 10 essential amino acids that you must get through your diet, so it’s considered a top source of complete plant-based protein; and it has an impressive amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Order without looking at the menu.

Almost every restaurant has the basics—veggies, grains, and protein. If you go in knowing what you want, I guarantee you'll be able to make a meal. If you're too uncomfortable to ask for what you need, tell a white lie: Say you're allergic. I know it's controversial to suggest this, but sometimes it feels awkward standing up for our own needs.

So if you want the broccoli soup puréed without cream
, tell the waiter you're lactose intolerant." Big picture… ask for what you want.

Portion Distortion

Plates in restaurants tend to be pretty big and often can be deceiving when it comes to portion size.  Get to know your portions before heading out to a restaurant to stay ahead of the game.

Pay attention to portions. A 3-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards; 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine, a standard postage stamp; a cup of cold cereal, berries or popcorn, a baseball; 4-inch pancake or waffle, the diameter of a CD.

Pay attention to your DRINK…

Considering how cheap, accessible and delicious sweetened and caloric beverages are, it's easy to see how the average person consumes hundreds of calories per day from drinks alone. Those liquid calories add up fast for another reason, too: It's so easy to mindlessly drink beverages.
When you’re offered free refills and having conversation with your family or friends at a restaurant, it’s not hard to suck down a beverage in 5 minutes without even feeling full or satisfied. Couple this with a server bringing the drinks to you at the table…. and you’ve completed an equation for calorie over-consumption!

If you're hungry, you'll be tempted.

When out at a restaurant, ask the server to hold the bread, snack mix or chips and salsa that might come before the meal.

While you are at it….  Tell the server at the beginning of the meal that you will NOT be having dessert this evening.  This will keep any unwanted temptation away after the meal.

Office Lunch: Partial Victory

Depending on your situation, it might be easier to bring some of your lunch and buy the rest. If the cafeteria usually has plain baked potatoes on hand, for instance, but they use heart-stopping toppings, make a plan to bring your own steamed broccoli and chili to use to top your potato off. Or, does the salad bar have an inviting array of veggies, but you’re tired of the same suspicious chicken they serve day in and day out? Bring your own protein (another way to work in leftovers) to top the salad bar selections. You can eat in AND eat out.

When it comes to what you eat, size really does matter and yes, you can have too much of a good thing… especially when dining at a restaurant.

But what is too much and how much should you be eating? With so many conflicting messages out there, it can sometimes be hard to know how much is enough. However, the answer lies all in your hands.
When we serve up more food, we tend to eat more. To avoid overeating, pay careful attention to your hands.

Vegetables – You should aim to have 2 cupped-hands of vegetables on your dinner plate. Another way to look at this is to have ½ your dinner plate filled with vegetables.
Carbohydrate – a clenched fist is the amount of carbohydrate you should have on your dinner plate.  Carbohydrates include starchy vegetables (potato, sweet corn, and yams), pasta, rice or bread. This means when it comes to your dinner plate, carbohydrates should only make up ¼ of the plate – not ¾’s of a plate as we may sometimes do with pasta and rice based meals!
Meat - The palm of your hand (excluding your fingers) and the thickness of your index finger should equal the portion of red meat on your dinner plate. The portion for chicken and fish is the size of your whole hand.

The Plan:

•  When you know you’re going to eat out, think about what
    foods you'll choose over the whole day. For example, plan on a
    light lunch if you'll eat out at dinnertime.
•  Try not to skip meals, which may make you overindulge later.
•  And most importantly, try not to show up at the restaurant
    famished! If you'd like to splurge on a higher calorie entrée,
    plan to skip dessert, and commit to sticking to your plan once
    in the restaurant.

The Ordering:

•  Don’t tempt yourself! Have the waiter remove the bowl of chips or peanuts, or the basket of
    bread, after you've had a small portion. Calories from mindless nibbling can add up before you
    know it.
•  Don't sit near the desert cart.
•  Limit alcohol. It's high calorie, has few nutrients, and can weaken your will power.
    (One drink is okay.)
•  Get exactly what you want by ordering each item separately (a la carte). For example, one
    chicken enchilada easy-on-the-sauce, side salad, and fruit desert instead of the # 8 enchilada
    plate with rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Chinese food

One of America’s most popular and healthy ethnic cuisines, Chinese food can contain a lot of salt. Remember that steamed rice is a healthier choice than fried rice, and portions are often quite large, so try sharing! Choose seafood and chicken over beef and pork, and stay away from breaded and fried meats. You might want to try using those chopsticks, too! They’ll slow you down and help you eat less.
•  Go for dishes with lots of vegetables
•  Choose steamed brown rice over white rice
•  Minimize sauces which tend to be high in sugar and salt, or
    ask for them on the side
•  Try steamed dumplings instead of fried wontons or egg rolls
•  Skip the crispy fried noodles
•  Ask that stir-fried dishes be prepared with minimum amounts
    of oil and without the soy sauce, MSG, and salt

It's actually easier than you think to make good choices at a fast-food restaurant, the mall, or even the school cafeteria.

Most cafeterias and fast-food places offer healthy choices that are also tasty, like grilled chicken or salads. Be mindful of portion sizes and high fat add-ons, like dressings, sauces or cheese.

Here are some pointers to remember that can help you make wise choices when eating out:
•  Go for balance. Choose meals that contain a balance of lean proteins (like fish, chicken, or beans if you're a vegetarian), fruits and vegetables (fries and potato chips don't qualify as veggies!), and whole grains (like whole-wheat bread and brown rice). That's why a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato is a better choice than a cheeseburger on a white bun.

•  Watch portion sizes. The portion sizes of American foods have increased over the past few decades so that we are now eating way more than we need. The average size of a hamburger in the 1950s was just 1.5 ounces, compared with today's hamburgers, which weigh in at 8 ounces or more.

•  Drink water or low-fat milk. Regular sodas, juices, and energy drinks usually contain "empty" calories that you don't need — not to mention other stuff, like caffeine.

IF you are going to have dessert when you go out to dinner….

Pie is the quintessential American dessert, and that doesn't bode well for any of us. Still,  ONE slice of Peanut Butter Pie manages to cram nearly 1,000 calories and a day and a half's worth of saturated fat into one slice!  The combination of icing, whipped cream, and peanut butter cups will do it. Save yourself 570 calories and 23 grams of saturated fat by ordering a sundae instead.
Remember this is for those special occasions and to get the weight loss you are looking for should not be eaten nightly.

Make a healthier version of your restaurant favorite at home and shave calories and sodium intake

Serve a beef-and-broccoli mixture over cooked brown rice, whole-wheat vermicelli or Chinese noodles. Grill your own hamburgers and serve with regular potato or baked sweet potato fries to save lots of unwanted calories.

Order ala carte.

Many, if not all restaurants are notorious for their enormous portions. When you feel like you can’t win on size, or if even half of an entrée is still way too big, order side items. Most restaurants do offer staples like baked potatoes, steamed fresh veggies, and rice dishes. Or, even if it’s dinnertime, ask for the lunch portion. You will save yourself from eating way too much, and you’ll be much happier about that.

Buffets – even seemingly healthy ones like
salad bars.

You'll likely overeat to get your money's worth. If you do choose buffet dining, opt for fresh fruits, salads with olive oil & vinegar or low-fat dressings, broiled entrees, and steamed vegetables. Resist the temptation to go for seconds, or wait at least 20 minutes after eating to make sure you're really still hungry before going back for more.

Cram for tonight's dinner

Many restaurants post their entire menu online so you can print it out for reference. If you often eat at "mom and pop" type restaurants that aren't online, call and ask for the menu to be faxed to you, or pick up a takeout menu on your next visit. Highlight the healthiest options for each menu and store them all in a central location. Then, when you are planning your next night out, take the time to decide on your dishes at home before you've been tempted by the sight of other choices.

Be a Picky Breakfast Customer

If you go to a restaurant for breakfast, ask if you can order items from the menu a la carte, such as eggs without the usual side of bacon. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions such as egg whites for whole eggs, or even request items that aren't on the menu. Healthier choices like yogurt, fruit, a whole-wheat bagel, or cottage cheese may be available on request.

Just say no to side orders at restaurants. Home fries, hash browns, breakfast meats, and butter-laden grits are diet downfalls. They're all high in fat, sodium, and calories. (Almost half of the fat found in breakfast potato dishes comes from the fat used to cook them.) If you can't have eggs without a breakfast meat alongside, choose Canadian bacon -- you could save hundreds of calories.

Going out for Italian

Going out for Italian food can either be a great choice or a disastrous one. Italians love vegetables and there are always plenty to choose from on their menus. Seafood is another Italian favorite. Either of these foods can be healthy choices as long as they aren't swimming in oil.

Choices to savor:
• Chicken Marsala (go light on the sauce)
• Pasta e Fagioli (pasta & bean soup)
• Minestrone Soup
• Fish, chicken or mean with two vegetables rather than pasta

Choose Soup

Often times we arrive at a restaurant STARVING. Instead of reaching for the free basket of bread, order a clear broth soup (ie: chicken noodle, miso soup, vegetable, etc). Not only will you save on calories, but also the soup will satisfy your tummy as well as your brain so that you won’t be as tempted to overeat when your main meal arrives.

It is smart to eat smaller portions

Banish buffets

Portion control can become a foreign concept for even the most determined dieter at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The sheer variety of foods available at buffets is also daunting -- studies have shown that when we’re given more choices, we tend to eat more without realizing it. Simply avoid buffet restaurants and you won’t have to face this temptation.

Mini meals are a must

It’s smart to eat smaller meals during the day when you’re planning to dine out. Just don’t eat too sparingly, though -- you don’t want to be so famished by the evening that you overeat. If mini meals don’t tide you over, have a small, healthful snack in the afternoon to curb your appetite and you’ll be much more in control come dinner time.

It is smart to eat smaller portions

Wrap it up

You know you’re at a nice restaurant when the server takes your plate away and wraps up your leftover food for you at the end of the meal. (And if you’re in a really nice restaurant, you’ll get the eating out equivalent of a balloon animal -- the tin foil swan!) To ensure you don’t leave sans swan, keep temptation at bay and ask the server to wrap up half of your meal as soon as it is served.

Eat chicken!

Order poultry steamed, poached, roasted, broiled, boiled, grilled or baked. Ask for skinless chicken whenever possible or remove it yourself. If you do treat yourself to fried chicken, choose white meat as it has fewer calories than dark. Of course, chicken, chicken and more chicken gets old after a while, so if you’re asking, “Where’s the beef?” allow yourself red meat a few times a week -- just be sure to choose leaner cuts of meat like loin or flank.


Red Flags!

Beware of these high-fat menu buzz words:

•    Cream sauce         •    Alfredo
•    Butter                     •   Battered or
•    Oil                                batter-dipped
•    Au gratin               •    With gravy
•    Breaded                 •    Smothered

Way too many calories come along with these words.

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