Tips for Dining Out
Thea, one of the founders of the May Day Weight Loss Challenge site, “Tales from the Scales,” writes a weekly column, Thea Thursdays. This week she offered some tips to assist in making good food choices when dining out which I enumerate here and expand upon and modify to conform with my own nutrition plan.
Remember that I am only writing about what works for me! There is no single plan that is perfect for everyone!
1. Plan ahead– Thea suggests that, if you know where you are going to eat beforehand, you visit the restaurant’s website to review the menu and any nutritional information provided. Alternatively, you might talk with a friend who has been to the restaurant to get an idea of what to expect. She noted that www.dietfacts.com has information about restaurant menus. All great ideas!
I suggest being prepared at all times by keeping nonfat items in the refrigerator that you can put in your bag and take to the restaurant with you.
For instance, I never head out to a restaurant without a bottle of nonfat dressing in my purse — unless I know that the dining establishment I’m going to patronize offers fat-free dressings. Once you start reading labels, you will be horrified to see how much fat is in salad dressings. When I first returned to water aerobics classes and changed my diet, I stopped by Wendy’s one day and picked up a chicken Caesar salad for lunch. I was absolutely mortified when, while munching away after having poured both packets of dressing they gave me on the salad, I read the nutritional information printed there. There were 23 grams of fat in each packet! That meant that I had just poured 46 grams of fat onto my otherwise healthy salad. That did it! I now keep a couple different varieties of nonfat dressing in my office and home refrigerators at all times.
Other foods with high fat content include, but are not limited to mayonnaise, sour cream, butter or margarine, cheese, oil. I have very small Tupperware containers that are just the right size for a serving or two of those items. I put several in a zip-lock bag and throw them into my purse if I know that I am going out to a steakhouse, for instance. Then I order my salad without dressing and my baked potato plain.
2. Order first – If you are with a group of people, try to be the first person to order. This will help you not be tempted by someone else’s (possibly poor) choice. (This has never been a problem for me, but it is worth a try, right? It might help you!)
3. Be picky – Remember, you are paying for the meal that you order. Just because the dish you want is designed with huge amounts of cheese, doesn’t mean you have to order or consume it that way! Ask the restaurant to prepare the dish the way you want! Inquire about how they prepare vegetables so you can avoid butter and oil if necessary. Ask for your salad without any dressing and use the nonfat choice you brought with you. Ditto any dish that includes cheese. Take a couple of slices of nonfat American or Cheddar with you if you are planning to have a burger. If you are going to order salad, take some grated nonfat Cheddar with you and toss it in when your salad is served.
dressing on the side. Ask for half the cheese that a dish normally comes with. Ask that the bun on your sandwich not be buttered before they grill or toast it. If you are feeling really adventurous, order off the menu (remember, they have a kitchen full of ingredients back there). This is YOUR food. Take control!
4. Be careful of salads – Not all salads are created equal. Just because you order a salad does not mean that it is necessarily a good choice. Be wary of what comes on it and have them take off anything you don’t want. Some things that can sabotage a salad are
eggs, bacon, cheese, fried bacon, croutons, cream dressings and avocado! I agree that they are SO good, but they are also SO high in fat calories.
Be careful! Ask for a to go box as soon as you sit down – If you are going to a sit down restaurant, ask for a to go box as soon as you order. When your food comes, put half in the box and enjoy the other half. If you want, you can even ask the server to put it in the box before they bring it out. Anyway to avoid temptation. This is unnecessary if you have made good choices in the first place. Order that nice big leafy salad with eggs, chicken, turkey or lean ham, cucumbers, carrots, etc. and add your own nonfat cheese and dressing. Enjoy! Eat until you are satisfied. You must keep eating in order to maximize your metabolism and reduce your body fat percentage. If you count calories and put your body into starvation mode, you will lose lean muscle along with or instead of the fat — and gain back every ounce you lose once you come to your senses and stop starving yourself. That’s why diets fail. Healthy eating succeeds. (Trust me . . . I’d been on every one of those diets at one point or another . . . big mistake every time.)
6. Drink your water – Some of the hunger you are feeling might be dehydration, but it shouldn’t be if you are drinking an adequate amount throughout the day.
Promise yourself to drink a whole glass of water before the food comes. This well help you to NOT overeat. If you are indulging in an adult beverage (or 2, or 3), have glasses of water in between. Trust me, this one will serve you well! Sorry, but I just don’t agree with this philosophy because of #5. Drinking water is not a substitute for eating well. Moreover, you deserve to enjoy your meal after you have put so much thought into making good selections. Have a glass of wine — enjoy it because it is actually good for you. Just don’t have more than two glasses. Water between? Not necessary.
I never leave the house without several packets of Crystal Light in my purse. I keep extra boxes in my car and office at all times. When I go to a restaurant, I ask for the largest glass of water they can give me — ideal size is 16 ounces because each packet of Crystal Light is designed for that amount. Then I pull out a packet and make that water into lemonade to enjoy with my meal. No need to order soda!
7. Skip dessert – This is an especially tough one for me! I have a tendency to look at the dessert menu BEFORE I look at the food menu.
If you order, share it with someone. If they don’t want to share anything (my husband is not a sweet eater. I don’t get it either), then don’t order it. Keep good dessert choices on hand at your house (pudding, jello, RF ice cream, etc.) so that you can indulge your sweet tooth after you get home.
Good dessert choices for me are a Special K or South Beach Diet snack bar or some rice cakes. Summer is coming so I may keep some nonfat Fudgesicles in the freezer for after water aerobics on a really hot day.
But I never eat “normal” desserts for one simple reason: Once I start eating, I can’t stop. There is no such thing as “just a taste” or “just a bite” so the only solution for me is to never start eating cakes, candies, cookies, etc. And sharing is not an option given that my husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes.
8. Forgive yourself – O.K. So you had every intention of making great choices, and you just didn’t. You know what? It’s O.K.!! Enjoy the food that you’ve eaten and pick up where you left off when you eat your next meal. Don’t beat yourself up about it!
Very good advice. But more importantly, keep it in perspective. Last week, my hormones were raging and I wanted to eat everything in sight! I did eat more than I normally do, but “normal” is a relative term. In the “old days,” I would have chomped down on chips, cookies, ice cream or buttered popcorn, to name a few things. My idea of a “pig out” these days is when I eat all six of the rice cakes in the pouch, instead of one or two. So it is important to forgive yourself, but also to remember how far you have progressed in your thinking and approach to healthy eating. Identify, as I did, the source of the desire to overeat or overindulge and, once you recognize it and acknowledge it, move on, determined to learn from the experience. It’s just like any other area of your life. If you make a mistake in your work, do you forgive yourself, learn from your error, and move on from that point, most likely never making the same mistake again? The same principles are applicable to your journey toward better health and nutrition, right!?
9. Vitamins — Thea did not mention vitamins in her post, but in my next entry, I am going to share with you the “secret weapon” I discovered about ten years ago . . .
May Day Weight Loss Challenge
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