More than ever, people are eating their meals away from home. Back in the 70s about 16% of meals were eaten out, while today that number is almost 50%—and growing. The problem is that frequent visits to your favorite restaurants can present big challenges to your “waist” control efforts.
The good news is you can learn to control what happens when eating out. Remember, you are in charge. You’re the customer, right? It just takes a little extra planning and preparation.
Where You Go – If you decide where to eat on the spur of the moment, you’re more likely to run into trouble. Give it some thought ahead of time, so you can be prepared. When making your selection, choose a place that has a varied menu with lots of options; skip the “all you can eat”–type places.
Before You Go – Look up the restaurant’s menu on the Internet. Deciding what you will order before you get there can reduce temptation once you’re there. Making reservations reduces waiting time, so you won’t be starving when seated. And most important, don’t leave the house hungry; this can lead to unhealthy food choices and overeating.
When You Get Seated – Just say no to the breadbasket and the chip bowl—don’t even allow them to be placed on the table. The same holds for the dessert and fancy drink menus—return them to your server as well. And remember to order water and start sipping; that will help ward off hunger.
What to Order – Be the first to order so you won’t be tempted to change your mind. Order à la carte to keep overall portion sizes down. And don’t be afraid to ask for substitutes like a salad instead of fries. Ask for a “half-order,” choose an appetizer as your entrée, or share an entrée with your dining partner. Ask for sauces, dressings, and gravies “on the side.”
When Your Food Arrives – How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Slow it down and enjoy the experience. You don’t have to clean your plate to get your money’s worth. Eat the lowest-calorie stuff first (for example, the salad or the steamed vegetables). After you’ve eaten half your meal, ask yourself if you’re still truly hungry. If you feel “comfortable,” guess what? You’re done. Stop and ask for a doggie bag.
Then There’s Dessert – Be cautious about playing mind games (like rewarding yourself with a piece of gooey chocolate cake because you’ve had such a healthy dinner). However, if you must indulge, make sure you are truly biologically hungry. Again, don’t devour your dessert just because it’s there; save some for later. Fresh fruit, or even a small serving of sorbet, is always a good option. Angel food cake is another possibility, if you must.
After You Eat – If you do indulge in that cake, or if you’re just feeling like you ate a little too much, try taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Or exercise a little longer or eat a little less the next day.