Dining Out Without Doing Your Diet In

Who doesn’t like to eat out? YOU are served, can eat something different than anyone else; you don’t have to plan a menu or shop for food. Better yet, there is no food to prep, kitchen to clean or dishes to wash. Unfortunately, the benefits of a night off may be more costly than you think. You may also gain weight, raise your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Portions at restaurants tend to be larger than what you eat at home normally; often serving multiple courses. Chefs typically add an excess of salt, sugar and fat without regard to common chronic health issues. However, you really need to keep in mind that you are following a healthy lifestyle whether you are sitting at your kitchen table or are in the dining room of a five-star restaurant. No matter where you eat dinner tonight, you still have to manage heart disease, diabetes or other medical conditions.
So, do you have to give up dining out? Absolutely not! But there are steps you can take in order to eat out without doing damage to your health.
Tips to follow before you even go:
1. Make healthy food choices at other times that day, paying attention to portion sizes;
2. No skipping meals so you can pig out later!
3. Drink plenty of water all day long
4. Exercise 15 minutes longer than usual
5. Get the menu in advance, and make your choices before you get to the restaurant (national chains now are required to have nutrition facts available to customers)
6. Call the restaurant and ask questions about added fats, sugars and salting as well as how friendly they are to customers with special requests
7. Order in advance, with all of your special requests, in case you feel uncomfortable about doing so at the restaurant in front of your guests
8. If temptation is a weakness, avoid buffets and “all you can eat” joints
9. Wear something that is a visual reminder to make healthy food choices (e.g. an outfit that you just got that is a smaller size than before or some of your skinny clothes from the back of the closet that fit again)
10. Just before you go, have a glass of water and a small snack (so you don’t walk in starving)
May I take your order? Tips now that you have arrived:
1. Ask for water upon arrival and sip water all night long
2. Decline having a bread basket for your table
3. Consider having an appetizer for a meal with a side salad or split an entrée with another person
4. Descriptive terms that tend to mean“healthier” on a menu include tomato-based, steamed, poached in broth/own juice, garden fresh,seasonal, roasted, broiled, blackened, dry broiled with lemon/wine and stir fried
5. Ask for a “doggie bag” before they bring out your meal (have them pack up half the meal, and only bring you half- this lessens the temptation to overeat)
6. Order double veggies
7. Ask for dressings, toppings, gravies to be on the side and take one spoonful then have the server take the rest away
8. Keep the salt shaker on the table, not in your hand (use plenty of pepper)
9. If you are having a dessert, try the fruit. If you are “going for broke” and having something ooey-gooey, split it with someone else
10. Stop eating when you are full….really!
Many people go into these events with the best of intentions to make healthy food choices. However, when faced with mouthwatering smells, tantalizing tastes and great company, some people find that they fail to achieve their goals. If you find yourself in this position, take comfort that you are not alone. Skip the part about blaming yourself for “blowing your diet”. Instead, follow a healthy lifestyle, which means that you simply move forward and plan what you can do next that is healthy. Of course you may have to wait until you have digested and let the Tums™ kick in before you take a walk around the block, eat a healthy meal or have some water. It will give you the time you need to plan your next dinner out at a restaurant.
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. Is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. She currently is providing nutrition counseling services for Hampden County Physician Associates at their offices in Westfield, Southwick, Feeding Hills and West Springfield. If you would like to schedule a counseling session with Jennifer, please call (413) 786-1500.

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