The most common question I get asked by patients at my clinic is “What about eating out?”
Everyone wants to lose weight. However, no one wants to sacrifice their social life in order to get there. And I totally understand that. In this country, we have all the choices as to restaurants but not too many activities are available. And until we change that, we have to cope with reality.
So let’s see how one can eat out with friends and still keep a healthy lifestyle.
Plan your outing
Eating out is OK.
Eating out every day or every other day is NOT!
You can go for lunch or dinner once or twice per week. The rest of the days should include other activities or just coffee or tea.
It is also important to plan your calories. In fact, when you know you’re eating out, the other big meal should be lighter than usual. Now I know that sometimes these outings are spontaneous. Nothing wrong with that! You can balance your meals on a weekly basis and not necessarily on a daily basis. Ask you dietitian to include restaurant meals in your diet.
Choosing the right restaurant is a key to a healthy diet. A patient once told me “But there was nothing light at that burger joint!!” My answer was simple “Why did you go there?” Some places just have a limited menu. Avoid them! Consider your dining options before heading to a certain restaurant.
The final step should be to increase your physical activity whether the same day or the one after in order to compensate for the extra calories.
Make the right choices
“I’m blowing the diet by eating here so… what the hell! I’m gonna go all the way!” WRONG!
You can make safe choices that go along with your diet as long as you take control of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.
QUALITY OF FOOD
When browsing the menu, there are words you should stay away from: pan fried, deep fried, crispy, buttered, breaded, creamy, extra, etc. these indicate a higher content in fat. The word extra, for example, is extremely dangerous. It’s like saying “Please add more calories to my already-high-fat meal!” So avoid the extra toppings on pizzas, the extra bacon or cheese in your burger or the extra parmesan and sauce to your pasta.
In contrast, there are words that should guide your choices: grilled, light, low fat, breast, filet, baked, steamed, boiled, etc. I was at a diner once with my friends and one of them asked me “Nadine, would this burger be a good choice?” I looked at the ingredients and answered instantly “When you read the word grilled 4 times in the same sentence, you are safe!”
Luckily, nowadays, there are healthy options in a lot of restaurants. So, look for the “healthy sign” in some menus or even the light section in others.
One thing that would increase your calorie intake without you noticing it would be the pre-meal options: bread and butter, nuts, chex-mix, appetizers, etc.
Stay away from refillable regular sodas and ice tea. They can increase your sugar intake excessively. Go for water or diet products.
Beware of sauces. They would make a huge difference between a high fat and a light sandwich. Go for ketchup and mustard or even any light sauce instead of mayo.
Finally, and most importantly, eat mindfully. Give your body and mind the time to realize that you are full and stop as soon as you are. I have a personal problem. If the food is still sitting on the table, I would keep eating even if my mind has realized that I’m full. Well, it’s very easy. Now I just ask the waiter to remove my platter as soon as that signal goes to my head!
QUANTITY OF FOOD
When you’re ordering, it’s very important to know the size of the portion you’re ordering. Sometimes a pizza can be shared and sometimes it’s just too small.
Choose the small portions. You don’t have to eat the 220 burgers. The regular one should be enough. If you’re absolutely craving those fries, get a side order instead of an entire basket. Don’t upsize even though it’s economically better. Small fries at that fast food restaurant give you 220 calories, medium 360 calories and large 560 calories. Upsizing in this case doubles your calorie intake!
Ask for sauces on the side so you can control the quantity you’re having.
Finally, beware of salad bars. They are very tricky because you think you’re just having a salad but you tend to overeat to get your money’s worth.
Eating out is possible when on a diet. However one should do it responsibly and be in full control because the temptation is simply a killer!