My weight loss and healthy eating class continues. Recent discussions involved restaurants and how in-the-world can you eat healthful out.
Here is some wisdom from the trenches on this topic:
• Don’t go!
• Always eat something either before you go or before your entrée: a salad or celery sticks but something.
• Share. Give part of it to someone else.
• Choose grilled.
• Ask for substitutions. Ask for extra vegetable or vegetables to replace fries, cole slaw or chips.
• Ask for a doggie-bag immediately.
The “doggie-bag” idea was their #1 recommendation. Cut your entrée in half and put it in the take-out box before you eat anything. This really cuts the portion sizes (you’ll be amazed at how much food you have once you get it home) and also allows you to enjoy this meal a second (or possibly third) time. If you wait until you’re done eating or just estimate when to stop eating you end up nibbling away and eat more than you intended.
Their first response “don’t go” may seem extreme but may be the smartest of them all.
Eating away from home—be it fast food breakfast or lunch, a quick pizza on a Friday night or that fancy date on Saturday—has become a way-of-life for many people. I’m showing my age again, but, I remember when eating out was a special event for birthdays or holidays. Now it’s estimated at half of all adults eat at least one meal out every day. That’s a lot of food…and I won’t even talk about the effect this can have on the food budget.
Restaurant meals tend to be larger and higher in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium than we need. Also, it’s hard to get fruits and vegetables in restaurant meals (French fries don’t count!). Low-fat or non-fat dairy products are almost nonexistent at restaurants. While some fast food restaurants are now offering these items in their kids’ meals, the price of little bags of carrots or apples just astounds me.
Planning can also be the key when eating out. If you’re planning a social night out at a restaurant, adjust your eating the rest of the day to allow for the uncertainty of restaurant meals. Don’t skip meals, but eat healthfully. You don’t want to be starved when you get to the restaurant. Also, can you get a copy of the menu before—this can allow you to plan. If it’s available, look up the nutrition analysis of the menu items. This will help you make good choices.
I’m not saying to never ever eat out again. But, even the most dedicated healthful eater can have problems in restaurants. You have much more control when eating at home. Maybe the idea is to eat out less, pack your lunch more often and plan ahead a little.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State Univerisity