A reporter from US News & World Report just contacted me about contributing tips on how to eat out healthfully. Instead of waiting for the article to come out…here are my tips:
- Speak to the manager (not the server). At first glance, most menus appear to have just one or two “healthful” items – and they are often boring. Instead of ordering off the menu, call the manager ahead of time (2-5pm is the best time – down time for the restaurant) and ask for specific recommendations to fit your specific needs. The manager is far more knowledgeable than the servers about the menu items (preparation, portion sizes, etc) and the capabilities of the kitchen staff to make modifications. In most cases, managers are able to offer much more interesting (and flavorful) tips on what to order – and how to order it. Then…when you get to the restaurant, instead of holding up your party with lots of questions, you’re ready to order! You can even assure the server that you’ve already run these special requests through the manager already!
- Ask for the steak, chicken, vegetables, pancakes, etc to be cooked as usual…but without the butter topping. (This is different from asking them to prepare the food completely without fat…that’s tasteless). So often restaurants “dress up” their food with a final brush or pour of butter on top of nearly everything! At 120 calories a tablespoon those calories can really add up.
- Skip the salad. If you’re ordering the salad “because it’s healthy” or to “get your veggies”, forget it! Salads often consist of lettuce of low nutritional value (dark greens have more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce) along with high fat/high calorie ingredients such as croutons, cheese, bacon, and dressing…adding up to as much as 500 calories for a “side salad”.
- Stand up and lose weight. Have you ever noticed that often it’s not until you stand up at the end of meal that you notice how full you are? Eat slowly to give your stomach time to send the “full” message to your brain (it takes about 15-20 minutes). Then, stand up halfway through the meal and ask yourself if you’ve had enough…often you’ll realize that you’re already full.
- Remind yourself that it’s “waist” or “waste”. Hate wasting food? Remember, when you finish everything on your plate it adds to your “waist”. Doesn’t “waste” seem more appealing?
- Create closure. Most of us need a signal that the meal is over. For many of us, it’s when the food is gone and the plate is empty. Given that dinner portions often contain more calories than you need in an entire day, that’s a sure prescription for weight gain. Instead, use an alternative closure technique to reduce the temptation to keep nibbling. This includes moving your plate away (or covering it with hot sauce or your napkin), popping gum or a mint in your mouth, or sip a cup of hot tea or coffee.
Want more tips? Get a copy of my book, Eat Out Healthy.