by Toby Amidor, MS, RD
Americans are eating more of their calories in restaurants than ever before. In the 1990s, we ate 32% of our calories outside the home—up from 18% in the 1970s. Problem is dining out usually means foods that are higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium. So what’s a restaurant lover to do?
Choose a restaurant ahead of time. Look for one with a wide variety of foods on the menu—you can check the website, go to www.allmenus.com for a complete rundown of dishes offered, or ask the restaurant to fax you a copy.
Select your meal. Decide what you’ll order before you head out the door. This will help you to avoid any last minute splurges.
Eat small meals throughout the day. Don’t starve yourself all day—studies show that when you skip meals, you tend to overeat at the next one.
Don’t leave the house hungry. You don’t want to arrive so hungry that you devour the bread basket before you order. Instead, munch on a light snack (like fresh fruit or veggies dipped in hummus) before you venture out.
At the Table
Politely decline the extras. Bread, tortilla chips, and Chinese noodles can bust your waistline even before you order.
Start with water. Think you’re hungry? You may actually be thirsty—oftentimes we confuse hunger with thirst, so start by sipping a tall glass of agua.
Wait on alcohol. Order alcohol with the meal. Drinking too much before you order can lead to a loss of inhibitions—you’ll end up losing control over what you order and how much you eat.
Be the first at the table to order. Listening to what everyone else orders can be tempting. To help you stick with your pre-planned meal, order first.
Don’t be shy. Ask questions about how food is cooked, what it comes with, and don’t be afraid to make requests (like dressing on the side or to swap fries with steamed veggies).
Watch for high calorie add-ons. Many dishes come with small items that can sabotage the entire dish such as cheese, cream sauces, dressings, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Ask for these items on the side or just hold them altogether.
Ask about fat. Most foods are cooked in butter or oil—the quintessential boobie trap of dining out. Ask for food cooked without these or stress VERY little oil.
Split dessert. If your sweet tooth is calling, then share it with others at the table or take two spoonfuls and call it a day.
TELL ME: What healthy tactics do you use when dining out?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. She is also a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist by the state of New York. She is also an ActivewearUSA.com Advisory Council Member.