For a variety of reasons, we’re eating out more and more frequently. Some of us like to sample the trendiest innovative cuisine and brandish the bragging rights. For others, their careers require entertaining clients, and that means eating out. Then there are those of us who don’t know how to cook, don’t have time, or just don’t want to prepare meals. This all adds up to big business for the food service industry and XXL stores, but it takes a toll on our health. Studies show that we typically consume a minimum of 200 more calories when we dine out than when we eat at home. The restaurant setting primes us for overeating. Resisting the urge to overindulge requires the restraint of not petting an adorable puppy that’s begging for attention. It’s darn near impossible.
These days we need special restaurant dining skills to leave the table feeling satiated but not stuffed. Here are some tips to keep the damage to less than catastrophic proportions.
Have you ever noticed that when your office mates want to go to lunch together, no one wants to take responsibility for choosing the restaurant? Jump in and suggest a place with at least some nourishing options. You’ll find that the rest will go along. Then set the tone by choosing a healthy meal and ordering first. More often than not you’ll shame the others into following your lead.
Do Your Homework
The key to eating well when you eat out is to do your research beforehand. Go on the café’s website, download and study the menu. Sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot and even find nutrition information. Decide what you’re going to order before you even set foot in the restaurant and stick to your guns. If need be, put your earbuds in when the server describes his favorite offerings and the mouth-watering specials. When a fork magically appears “just in case you want to taste the dessert,” focus on how lousy you’ll feel when the extra calories have affixed themselves to your backside. At first, these strategies may sound daunting, but it gets easier with practice.
Have It Your Way
Don’t be shy about getting what you want, prepared the way you want to eat it. Remember, the chef is there to please you. Ask how dishes are prepared and what accompaniments are served with them. If the offering comes with a creamy sauce, ask for a substitute or have it on the side, like salad dressing. Then sub out that huge mound of “smashed potatoes” or “parmesan risotto” for extra vegetables. Consider ordering an additional side of vegetables and eat them first.
Eating out involves waiting, sometime for what seems like an extraordinately long time, especially if you arrive hungry. How many times have you blown your calorie allotment for the whole meal by plowing through half-a-loaf of generously buttered bread? Downed two drinks before any food graced the table? Avoid these traps by drinking lots of water or ordering a broth-based soup, and waiting until the main course is delivered to order your glass of wine. If you get really desperate, you might even resort to talking to your table mates. If not, then join the crowd and play on your smartphone. It also helps to apply the grocery shopping rule: don’t go to the restaurant famished. Eat a snack beforehand so you can enjoy, rather than inhale, the meal.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Your willpower whittles away the longer you look at, smell, and taste the tempting food sitting in front of you. You have two viable options to make your life easier. First, if someone is amenable, share an entrée. That way you’ll consume only one portion. Another strategy is to get your to-go box with the entrée and immediately put one-half of the serving in the container. Either way, you can eat every last morsel on your plate yet feel proud of yourself when you walk out of the restaurant, having avoided another opportunity to become super-sized.