LAKE OCONEE — When watching your weight, dining out can be a challenge! Americans currently spent 42% of their food budget on meals eaten away from home. Four out of ten of these meals are eaten at fast food establishments. These meals are typically higher in fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories and fall short on fiber, calcium and phytonutrients.
In order to eat out without pigging out follow these simple guidelines.
Know Before You Go — Know what your restaurant options are – around work and around your home. Do some investigating before you leave. Restaurants usually publish their entire menu on-line. This will help you decide which restaurant to eat at based on the healthy menu options they offer. It is a great idea to check out the menu from home and determine what you’re going to order before you leave your house.
Don’t think of dining out as a” special occasion”, even if it is. We tend to overeat and indulge on foods that we may not otherwise eat if we feel it’s a special occasion.
Budget your calories throughout the day: if you know that you are going out to eat for dinner, try slightly reducing your intake at breakfast and lunch. This will allow you a little more to play with while dining out. A word of caution, don’t skip meals altogether and stockpile all your calories for dinner. This will only cause you to over eat and you may end up consuming more calories in one meal than you would have in all three.
Have a small snack such as a fruit with reduced fat cheese or a small handful of nuts to help curb your appetite before you go.
If you know where you’ll be dining; look up the nutrition information online before you go. This will give you the ability to plan a meal that fits in your meal plan without blowing it.
What to Choose? — Avoid fried foods all together. Choose lean meats that are grilled or broiled and vegetables that are roasted or steamed. Substitute a side of steamed vegetables, salad or a baked potato for that extra large order of french fries. This will help cut calories and fat while increasing your intake of healthy nutrients!
When ordering a salad, order your dressing on the side and try to use 1/2 or less of what’s provided. Skip the cheese, bacon and fried onions, and ask for more shredded carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms or fruit. This will decrease fat and calories while increasing your vitamin and mineral intake.
When considering soup; avoid cream based soups or soups topped with cheese. Choose a healthier, low fat option with broth based soups loaded with vegetables, beans; such as kidney, black, pinto or garbanzo, and whole grains; such as barley, quinoa, brown rice.
At the Restaurant — Skip the heavy appetizers and split a meal with a friend or family member. Most restaurants serve portions that are two to three times what we need! You may even ask if you could order from the children’s menu. Otherwise, have the serving staff put half of the meal in a to-go box before it is brought to the table.
Order water or calorie free beverage to go with your meal.
Avoid all the extras, as these calories add up quickly: bread and butter on the table, chips and salsa, sweetened drinks, appetizers, side items, desserts and alcoholic beverages. Always order condiments, such as butter and sour cream on the side so you control how much you use.
Lastly, don’t sabotage your weight loss goals by making the wrong choices while dining out. Instead focus on getting a healthy balance of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables no matter where you choose to eat.
If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Question for the Breeze” as the subject title.
Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD, can be reached at (706) 473-5801.