Blog on All Things Nutrition
Week 14! We are down to 2 more weigh-ins!
Eating out can be a huge weight-sabotager!! Your average restaurant serving -- just an entree, no drinks, no appetizers, no desserts -- is virtually a whole day's calories on one plate!
A study published in JAMA by Tuft University researchers found that most typically ordered restaurant meals contain more than half the calories the person would need per day. For the study, Roberts' team analyzed 157 full meals from 33 restaurants in the Boston area. They found 73% of the meals ordered had over half of the 2,000 daily calories recommended for adults by the FDA, and 12 meals contained more than the full daily recommendation. Meals with the highest average number of calories included those from restaurants specializing in Italian (1,755 calories), American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories) fare. Meals with the fewest average number of calories were from Vietnamese (922 calories) and Japanese (1,027 calories) restaurants.
In another study, Canadian researchers analyzed 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down, chain restaurants. They found the average breakfast, lunch and dinner contained 1,128 calories. In addition, the meals typically contained 151% of the daily amount of salt a person should have daily, 89% of the fat recommended per day, and 83% of daily recommended saturated and trans fats.
To illustrate this point, I often do the following exercise: I give people menus from popular restaurants such as (Bertuccis, Cheesecake Factory, Not Your Average Joes’ etc) and ask people to choose what they would like for dinner. I have seen calorie counts as high as 3,000-4,000! Then I ask people to do the same exercise again, except this time be mindful about choosing healthier options. Calories go down tremendously, but they are still much higher than recommended per meal (like 1500-2000 calories). Why is this? Restaurants add extra fat, sugar, and salt to make food taste good in addition to providing portions suitable for 2-3 people!
Thus, I recommend limiting the time you go out to eat and to cook at home as much as possible. However, this is not always reasonable as restaurant eating has become a huge part of our culture. So when you do go out, here are some tips to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals:
Tricks for Healthier Restaurant Eating:
1. Plan on it-- look at the menu in advance online or through the Myfitnesspal app. Pick out something healthy to eat or choose another restaurant entirely if eating healthy becomes a challenge.
2. Be prepared— eat a piece of fruit or drink a glass of water before going out to eat.
3. Get those steps— walk to the restaurant, if possible.
4. Be smart— refuse the bread or chips before they are set on the table.
5. Go clean--do not order dessert, alcohol, soda or appetizers in addition to your meal. If you must drink opt instead for a glass of wine, a light beer, a vodka and tonic or a simple martini (without the chocolate liquor, sour green apple schnapps, or triple sec).
6. Read between the lines--Any menu description that uses the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, or stuffed is likely loaded with hidden fats—much of which are unhealthy fats. Other “beware of” words include: buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, Thermidor, Newburg, Parmesan, cheese sauce, scalloped, and au lait, à la mode, or au fromage (with milk, ice cream, or cheese).
7. Ask how the food was prepared and don’t necessarily go by the menu. For instance, “low carb” or “lite” doesn’t necessarily meal light in calories.
8. Ask for it your way. You need to be an assertive customer by asking for changes on the menu. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a larger portion of the salad, for a salad instead of coleslaw, baked sweet potato instead of fried. Etc. Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it. I’ve have had a restaurant not cooperate.
9. Think satisfying-- order a meal with more protein and vegetables. Ask them to triple your veggies. Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really more like a garnish. When ordering, ask for 3-4 times the normal serving of veggies. This way you get full, not fat.
10. Order fish--Just make sure its not fried or breaded. You can order it baked, broiled, sautéed, blackened, or grilled.
11. Pack up half-- have the waiter bring a box with the meal. Better yet, ask your waiter to box up half your entrée before it even gets to the table.
12. Share it-- order one meal and share it with a friend.
13. Try double appetizers. Consider skipping the entrée and having 1-2 appetizers for your meal.
14. Go small-- serve your food onto your salad plate.
15. Order a salad before ordering anything else on the menu. BUT avoid creamy sauces/dressings, potato salad, pasta salad, bacon, or fried noodles.
16. Be slick-- get salad dressing on the side and dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.
17. Drink water throughout the meal-- It will slow you down, help you enjoy the food more and help you recognize your satiety cues.
18. Skip the dessert--If the whole table is getting dessert, ask for a fruit cup even if it’s not on the menu.