Sixty-seven percent of Americans almost always finish the restaurant portions they are served. Men are 4 times more likely to eat everything and restaurant portions are huge, denser in calories, and higher in fat and sodium.
Just knowing restaurant meals can be a problem is the first step toward solving it.
You don’t have to stop eating out. Meeting someone and sharing a meal is one of our basic social activities. It’s fun and can help relieve stress. You want to enjoy the benefits but minimize the negatives.
Just plan. Eat lighter meals around the bigger business lunch or dinner with friends. Try to get more activity to balance the extra calories – walk to and from the restaurant. You can even balance a larger restaurant meal today with tomorrow’s meals and exercise. The concept is balance and moderation over time. One meal or one day does not make or break a diet. It is day after day of unwise food choices and little exercise that adds up.
Stay away from all-you-can-eat buffets. We eat more when confronted with more variety and more choices. Keep the vegetable tray and give back the chips and dip. Don’t use butter on your bread; this tip will save you 100 calories or more.
“Something to drink?” – “Water, thank you.”
Liquid calories can add up quickly, especially alcoholic drinks and endless-refill sodas. Choose calorie free drinks – water, mineral water, club soda, diet soda, unsweetened or diet iced tea. Or, choose lower calorie drinks – wine, wine spritzers, and fruit juice + carbonated mineral water.
Order an appetizer as a meal.
Even if you order 2 appetizers, one to start and one as the main course, you still save calories. Ask if the lunch portion can be ordered at dinner. Share a main course with a friend. Or, ask the waiter to plate half of your regular-sized entrée and request the other half as a take-home.
Play with your food.
Scrape away extra sauce or topping leaving just enough to provide taste. Trim away extra fat from meat. Remove the skin from poultry. Remove most of the butter or sour cream from your baked potato. Each of these simple suggestions can save you 25 to 75 calories that you’ll never miss.
On the side, please.
Request butter, gravy, salad dressing, sauce, sour cream, syrup, guacamole, and grated cheese on the side so you can decide how much to eat. Don’t dunk your food into the topping. Dunk your fork into the sauce first then spear a bite of food. You’ll still get the taste of the topping with far fewer calories.
Eat slowly and take smaller bites.
Europeans savor meals, American rush through them. Enjoy the company, talk more and you’ll eat less. Take smaller bites and don’t put more food into your mouth until you have swallowed. This may sound very simple but many of us take very large bites and eat far too fast. Teach yourself to enjoy eating.
Eat till you feel fine, not full.
You don’t have to clean your plate. Stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied, not stuffed. Place your knife and fork across the middle of the plate to signal the wait staff you are done and ask for the rest to take home. Restaurants today are accustomed to take-always and many have designed attractive carry baskets and logos for their “doggie bags.”
Everyone loves dessert. Don’t feel you have to skip this part of the meal. Suggest sharing with another person or better yet share with the whole table. Sherbets, sorbets, and fresh seasonal fruits are desserts you can enjoy and keep the whole portion to yourself.