Americans eat out, on average, six times a week. I’ve read that statistic in many places and can’t argue with it. I often eat out a lot (more than six times a week if the truth be told) — for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and in all kinds of restaurants – diners, cafeterias, and places with tablecloths on the tables.
That’s my lifestyle, and having to be constantly vigilant about managing my weight, I had to learn how to control my caloric intake while eating out.
It’s certainly easier to control the portion size and fat and calorie content of your food if you cook it at home. In your own kitchen you know what you’re putting in your food. And you don’t have to put bread on the table if you don’t want to or do things like rinse your vegetables in oil to make them look fresh and pretty.
Restaurants love to use butter, oil, full-fat dairy, and higher fat meats. Their business is to make food that tastes good and to entice you to come back again. What goes into your food is, for the most part, in the hands of the preparer in the restaurant kitchen whose primary objective is not to keep the calories down (unless that’s the promise or the response to your request) but to get your food on the table.
But, you can learn ways to control your caloric intake when you eat out. You can easily make requests and small changes that put you in charge of the calorie count while still enjoying your dining experience.
I’ll be talking about additional strategies to use in future posts, but for now, here are some things you can do to cut the calories:
- Learn the code words on the menu that signal the fattier and more caloric dishes
- Be pleasantly assertive when asking to go “off menu” or to have food prepared in a specific manner – like grilled rather than pan fried
- Be aware of mindless eating: olives on the table, peanuts at the bar, tastes of everyone else’s food
- Learn how to eyeball portion sizes and commit to eating that size rather than cleaning your plate. Premeasure at home so you have a guide about how much, for example, 5 oz of meat looks like – or 4oz. of wine. Commit it to memory so you can eyeball portion sizes
- Stay out of the breadbasket – and, if you do indulge, lay off of the butter, olive oil, and other dips
- Practice trade-offs: if you’re going to have dessert eliminate the appetizer and vice versa
- Check out the menu ahead of time and decide what to order so you are not tempted by the possible calorie laden “special of the day”
- Rehearse these words so they become your habitual request:
- dry toast/pancakes/English muffin (no butter)
- dressing on the side (for salad)
- do you have skim/low fat milk?
- no whipped cream
- sauce on the side for entrees/vegetables
- may I have salad instead of French fries/onion rings?
- hold the mayo (try mustard instead)
- is the sauce tomato or cream based?
I’ll be posting frequently about additional strategies to use when eating out.
What are some strategies that you use to control your caloric intake in restaurants?