As a dietitian, I dread the encounters when people wish to be told what to eat. As someone who has lost a significant amount of weight and helped thousands of others do the same, restrictive diets are not successful long-term. If your diet requires you to completely omit a food you love, that diet is probably not the best fit. A weight-loss plan must be flexible, enjoyable, balanced, and yes…produce results, too!
Dining out can present challenges, but learning how to dine out appropriately is a huge factor in one’s success. Just as it is not advisable to follow a restrictive diet, you shouldn’t feel the need to restrict your lifestyle and social activities either. Dining out can be done health-consciously and weight-consciously with a few small changes.
Many people over-eat at restaurants because it’s “a special occasion”, or any other number of reasons – birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and the list goes on and on. Problem is, we find reasons at each meal out to often reward ourselves or “splurge” on foods, beverages, and larger portion sizes. Dining out is a part of many people’s lifestyle and so learning healthy dining out practices is crucial for long-term weight-loss success.
While it may feel like a daunting task to configure the calories in menu items, many restaurants have this information available to patrons – just ask! Practice reading menus for more details on menu items. While chicken is a lower calorie, lower fat option than steak, if the chicken is fried and topped with a cream sauce, the steak would be a better option for controlling calories. Become comfortable in asking servers how sides are prepared and know that you can request cooking methods that omit butter, oil and other high-calorie ingredients.
What may be the simplest change when eating out to control calories would be a reduction in portion size. Rather than stressing over what menu item is the healthiest choice, consider ordering what sounds good and consume a smaller portion. It can be difficult to stop eating when food remains on your plate, so consider sharing a meal or having half of your meal packaged for leftovers before it is brought to the table. Learning to eat less takes practice is not easy, and it does not come naturally to most people. Challenge yourself to first eat a bite or two less than you may normally and go from there.
When dining out, always order water, even if it is in addition to another beverage. Drink plenty of fluids, put your utensil down between bites, chew thoroughly, and slow down eating to enjoy your meal. Be conscious of your level of satiety – eat until you are satisfied, not full.
Eating out should be enjoyable and need not create the stress surrounding what to order. In so many instances, moderation truly is the key to success. With the New Year upon us, challenge yourself to pay close attention to signals of hunger and satiety. Focus in on the practices of eating when hungry and quitting when satisfied. More importantly, make it a habit to not over-consume. Reducing caloric intake for weight loss really can be that simply…but it also takes practice!
Nicole Morrissey, RD works as the Director of Nutrition Services at a local hospital in Southwest Michigan and holds a master’s degree in Nutrition and Wellness. Her diverse work experience includes over 2 years of leading meetings for Weight Watchers as well as past experience with diabetes, renal disease, bariatrics, food service and education. For more information, visit her on her blog PreventionRD.com or follow her on twitter @PreventionRD.