9 Ways to Eat Less While Dining Out
By Glen Tobias, MS, RD, CSSD
Do you find it stressful going out to eat while trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle? If you answered “yes,” you are not alone. Food and eating have become more than just a way to stay alive. Celebrations and family gatherings around food, and we use it as a way of sharing our traditions.
Whether you realize it or not, you are exposed to the social pressures of eating quite often. When eating out, staying on track with a healthy eating plan might be more challenging. Restaurants know exactly how much sugar; fat, and salt (the evil trinity) to add to their dishes to have us love it, finish it all, and come back for more. We all crave the evil trinity, so the more control you have over the food and the better you prepare, the better off you’ll be.
So go out, enjoy, and get dressed to the nines, while remembering these nine rules:
- Drink plenty of water – Before any social occasion that will be serving food, drink up. It will fill you up, as well as help you to stay focused on your plan. Water is also great for your metabolism!
- Plan ahead – If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. If you know your schedule for the day includes a meal out, try to eat a little less starch (rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread) during the day. This will save you a few calories to spend on that meal. However, DO NOT fast the entire day in preparation for the event, since your hunger will only become your worst enemy.
- Order at home – Not literally, though. Get the name of the restaurant and find their menu online. You can look it over and know exactly what you will be ordering before you ever walk in. This prevents impulse ordering or joining in on whatever anyone else is doing.
- Pre-eat – Eat right before you go to the restaurant or event. If you arrive hungry, you will eat everything and eat it all way too quickly. An example: You will eat all the bread, order an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. This is not the optimal plan, so get something in your stomach to prevent this from happening to you. (Tip: bring a whey-based (not soy) protein bar on your way to go eat. This will “prime the pump,” meaning you will avoid excess hunger because you have just eaten. You only have willpower when you are full.)
- Take it slow – Use this social situation to talk and make conversation before putting your hand in that bread basket! Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in your stomach to stretch and send a chemical signal to your brain to let you know that your stomach is full. Everyone has, at one point or another, eaten to pain. This usually means you were eating way too fast (usually due to excessive hunger).
(Tip: Eat with your non-dominant hand, and don’t pre-load the fork.” So while you are chewing, don’t ready your fork for the next bite).
- Special order (even if it’s just a little) – Sometimes we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves while ordering, but it can help in big ways.
- Order sauces and dressings on the side to help save hundreds of calories
- Nothing fried or sautéed (fancy word for frying). Vegetables should be steamed or grilled (this alone can save over a hundred calories in oil)
- Take a good look before you make a decision at a buffet – When eating from a buffet, take some time to weigh all your options before you fill your plate, then select foods that fit your meal plan. Try a little first, and only eat what you like. Don’t just eat it because it is on your plate.
- Add some fiber – Selecting foods high in fiber such as vegetables, whole grains, and fruits with skin will make you feel fuller faster. You’ll have less room for tempting foods later.
- Portions – Exercise control, not only at a restaurant, but at an event such as a wedding or dinner party. When the “what” is not up to you, the “how much” always is. Most restaurants serve too much food, so do not feel the need to finish everything. If you leave enough over, you won’t have to plan dinner for the following night! (Tip: Ask them to bring only half of your meal and wrap the other half up and take it to go.)
For more information or to make an appointment:
Manhattan Sports Medicine
133 East 58th St. 15th floor
New York, NY 10022
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