Eating out can be such an enjoyment. No cooking or cleaning, and you get to really enjoy the experience of being around your friends and family without all the hassle. Unfortunately, we often tend to overindulge a little too much. Studies from the National Restaurant Association have shown that most Americans, on average, eat out around five times per week. These meals generally are higher in calorie than what we would typically prepare at home. And while splurging on occasion is surely okay, if we are not careful, we may find ourselves looking for larger sized clothes. Each meal eaten away from home can increase our daily calorie count. Therefore, 5 meals per week spent eating out may create a recipe for unintentional weight gain. For those of us that travel frequently for work or who meet frequently with clients at restaurants, this topic is especially important. Again, eating out can be a great pleasure, but if we do it on a consistent basis, we owe it to our waistline and our overall health to try to make some smarter choices. Listed below are just a few ways to help change our thinking about restaurant eating and help us improve our habits while eating out.
Be the First to Order
Even with the healthiest intentions in mind going into a restaurant, somehow willpower waivers when we hear someone else order. Studies have even gone so far as to prove that, women especially, tend to mirror each other in many ways; including food choice. We've all done it"¦ "I'll just have what she's having. That sounds delicious!" Ordering first puts you in control of the situation, makes you more confident in your decision to choose something healthy, and, who knows, you just may entice the crowd to follow your lead. If possible, try to choose a restaurant that has healthy options. This way, you'll have plenty of better choices to choose from.
Lookout for Danger Signs
Evaluating the menu thoroughly is an important step in making a healthier food choice. Browsing online before you go is even better and can give you a better idea of what options you have. Examine everything written carefully, and lookout for red flags that might indicate higher caloric value such as descriptive words like crispy, creamy, breaded, fried, etc. Always opt for foods that are steamed, grilled, or broiled. These cooking methods are always going to be the healthiest with fewer calories.
Think Before You Drink
Many times, we are so focused on the actual meal that we forget that our drinks have calories too! And those calories can rack up very quickly. For example: one regular serving of sweet tea can add a whopping 200-250 calories to your daily intake. This means, that consuming just a couple of glasses during your meal may equal a meal in itself. The calorie count often climbs even higher with soda, mixed alcohol drinks, and so forth. A good tip to keep those calories at bay is to drink water. Water is calorie free and will fill you up while helping you eat less.
Add a Soup or Salad
Another way to keep from overindulging is to ask for a broth based soup or a salad prior to your meal. (In many restaurants, it may already be included with your entrÃ©e order). Because broth is made up mostly of water and lettuce is bulky in nature, both of these foods are more filling and can keep you from overdoing it when your meal actually makes its debut.
Don't Be Afraid to Make the Meal Your Own
Don't be reluctant to ask to have a meal the way you want it. As long as you're polite, what's the worst that can happen ? They can't do it, and you have to pick something else. Replacing foods like french fries with a vegetable is a huge calorie saving move. Also, if you decide to order a salad, keep in mind, that loading a salad down with excess condiments and high fat dressing will not be beneficial to you in the least. Always ask for a low calorie dressing and have it placed on the side. You'll tend to eat less of it that way. Restaurants always tend to give more dressing than we really need, and if it's mixed in, there's no way to prevent you from consuming every bit of those extra calories when all you ate was salad!
Another way to customize your calorie intake is to ask for a take out box as soon as you receive your meal. Many times, we finish our plate just because its there, whether we were actually really hungry or not. Boxing up half of the entrÃ©e before eating can cut your calories tremendously and also give you lunch the next day. It's a win-win.
Watch Your Portions
Portion control is sometimes easier said that done, but it's important to take the time to really realize how much you are actually taking in. A good rule to follow is to consume an amount of pasta no bigger than your fist and a meat/protein no bigger than the palm of your hand. Many people find that ordering an appetizer or a small plate as a meal is often just the perfect size.
Take it Slow
We've all heard this rule before, but there really is so much truth to it. When we eat too quickly, we often eat much more than we need to. It takes the brain roughly 20-30 minutes to relay the message that the stomach is full. So take it slow. Use the time you have being out to enjoy the break and the people around you.
Paying attention to food choices while eating out can really save you from a lot of unexpected weight gain. It's all about deciding when to splurge and when to make sure you're ordering smart. It's crucial to have a healthy plan, and make yourself stick to it.