Dining out Dilemma

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society revealed that restaurant chefs do not consider the calorie content of their dishes when determining the portion sizes that they serve to their patrons. The chefs surveyed agreed that it was the diners job to decide how much to eat and how much to take home.

    It is well documented that the size of restaurant meals has increased over the years – at the same time Americans are eating more and more meals outside the home. A recent study reported that approximately two-thirds of Americans eat at least one meal per week in a restaurant, which can encourage overeating.
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    Most restaurants serve two and even three portions on one plate and this can lead people to overeat. Experts explain that if you serve people bigger meals they are going to consume more calories. People usually eat what is on their plate because they assume that it is the amount that they are supposed to eat.

    In addition, restaurant menus include many foods that are considered an indulgence, foods that you might not cook at home. These foods are often high in calories, fat and sodium and can be very tempting. As the frequency with which people dine out increases, so too does the number of times that they indulge in these types of foods.

    However, restaurants do not have to be a diet pitfall. In fact, there are many ways to dine out without completely abandoning your diet. Try sharing your meal with a friend, this way you can still indulge in your favorite foods but with half the calories. You can also consider ordering an appetizer as a meal – many restaurants include their popular dinner items in smaller portion sizes on their appetizer menu. Or ask for a to-go box and put half your meal in the box before you start eating. If you put half away before digging in you are going to be less tempted to eat the whole meal in one sitting.

    Many restaurants offer healthy choices that allow you to maintain your healthy eating habits. Look for key words like baked, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or stir-fried on the menu to help you choose healthier options. Don’t be afraid to ask how a menu item is prepared before ordering to ensure that the cooking method is healthy. You can also substitute steamed vegetables for ones cooked in butter or fried.

    I also find it helpful to go online and look at a restaurant menu before I get there. Many restaurant websites include the nutrition information for their menu items so you can make an informed decision. If you walk into a restaurant prepared you may be less likely to make snap decisions that could result in overeating. It may also be helpful to order your meal first, this way you won’t be swayed by what your friends are ordering.

    Some links you may find helpful:

    Restaurant Remedies: Don't Diet Out, Dine Out!

    Seven Habits of Highly Successful Dieters

    Sugar Smarts
Published On: October 27, 2006