The tips below from KevinMD may be helpful. But in general, restaurants are the graveyard of weight loss (and perhaps send us there earlier, too).
Restaurant food is high in sugar/fat/salt, diabolically concocted to keep you coming back. We’ve come to expect dishes that were once a once-a-month treat to be daily parts of our diets.
When I go to restaurants, I don’t even look at the menu – I asked for steamed fish and a double serving of steamed green veggies. A little lemon, pepper, and hot sauce round things out. And interestingly, now that my food choices are so automatic, I actually like a buffet where I can heap a plate full of veggies, stick them in a microwave to wilt them, and then add beans, tuna, chicken on top.
by Sally Scroggs, RD
Here are several strategies for eating out that will help you steer clear of diet-sabotaging menu items:
1. Balance your daily calorie budget: Think about what, and how much, food you eat during an entire day. If you’re heading to your favorite flatbread pizza place in the evening, eat a low-calorie breakfast and lunch packed with fruits and vegetables. This way, you won’t blow your calorie budget if you eat a heavier meal in the evening.
You also don’t want to get to the restaurant starving. Eat a piece of fruit before you go out. It will help you control your portion size. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your order, especially if you need to lose weight. Just remember, a veggie side dish does not make a fatty entrée less unhealthy.
2. Ask for nutritional details: Don’t be afraid to seek out nutritional information about menu items. Restaurants know they need satisfied customers. Just remember not all restaurants share accurate information on each dish. Be smart and ask yourself, “Does this number really match the dish?”
3. Don’t be fooled by attractive menus: Don’t decide what to eat based on the mouthwatering photo highlighted on the menu. They never look as good on the table as they do in the picture. Be strong and stick to the menu item you know is best for you.
Watch out for tempting menu items with names such as “Triple Chocolate Volcano.” The word “triple” should instantly tell you that this dish probably has three times the average number of calories.
4. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets: Indulging in unlimited amounts of food at all-you-can-eat buffets is no bargain! But if you do find yourself staring at an unlimited buffet feast, select modest portions of healthy foods to fill one plate. Resist the temptation to return for seconds.
Use this plan-of-attack when filling your plate:
- Load up your plate with extra veggies and fruit first
- Choose chicken or fish entrees instead of beef or pork
- Steer clear of anything fried or battered
5. Share entrees or get to-go boxes: Most restaurants today serve menu items two to three times as big as they should be. If you’re confronted with huge portions at any restaurant, share an entrée with your fellow diner or request a to-go box.
6. Beware of Liquid Calories: Go easy on sodas and specialty drinks. They provide no nutritional benefits — but often have upwards of 150 calories for a single 12-ounce serving. Even worse: they’re easy to drink in large quantities, but they don’t make you feel full. Your best bet is to order water. Not only does it help keep you hydrated, it helps fill you up so you eat less.
No matter where you go or what you order, being prepared is a must when dining out. With a little planning, you can make healthy food choices at any restaurant.
Sally Scroggs is health education manager at The University of Texas MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.