We eat with our eyes, not with our stomachs. This is especially true when eating out. Research has shown that we usually decide how much to eat because of what we see in our environment, not because of hunger. Factors such as how much food is on the table and even the size of the tableware influence how much food we eat and how many calories we consume.
The effect is huge. Eating a mere 50 more calories a day can result in a five-pound weight gain over a year. In this article, we’ll explore ways to be mindful of how to keep calories in check when eating outside of the home.
Restaurant Dining Strategies
Keep this baker’s dozen of tips in mind next time you eat out to help you prevent mindless overeating:
1. Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants, especially if you’re likely to try to “get your money’s worth” with the sheer quantity of food. This style of dining is no bargain in terms of excess calories.
2. If you do find yourself at a buffet, follow Cornell nutrition researcher Brian Wansink’s “Rule of Two”: When eating at a buffet, put only two items at a time on your plate. Even if you make repeated trips, you’ll eat a lot less.
3. At the salad bar, fill your plate with low-calorie, high-fiber salad greens and vegetables, and be mindful of high-calorie add-ons such as fried croutons, cheeses, bacon, nuts, full-fat dressings or just about anything mixed with mayonnaise.
4. Steer clear of items that scream LARGE — giant, grande, supreme, extra-large, jumbo, double, triple, double-decker, king-size or super. Seek out portion descriptors that indicate moderation (and don’t let them make you feel you’re getting less value) — junior, single, petite, kiddie or regular.
5. Never order anything with extra cheese.
6. Instead of ordering a main course, choose soup and a salad, or soup and an appetizer, or an appetizer and salad. Or order a half portion.
7. Order a side dish of steamed, roasted or grilled veggies. Eat your veggies first — the fiber and water in these will fill you up so you don’t overeat during the meal.
8. Order a full-course meal, from soup to dessert, but split everything down the middle with your dining partner.
9. Order and eat family-style, but request one or two fewer dishes than the number of people dining. Pass and share.
10. When you’re looking over the menu, choose something low in fat that you don’t often make at home such as grilled fish or shellfish, roast duck breast (no skin), lean chicken or even rabbit.
11. If a huge entree is set in front of you, slice off a reasonable portion and ask your server to put the remainder in a take-home container immediately — before you finish that reasonable portion and are tempted to start nibbling on the rest.
12. Remember that most desserts have enough sugar, fat and calories for two or three people. Order only one treat to share among friends.
13. Don’t drink your calories. No refills of sweetened beverages! Limit alcohol to a small glass of wine or a light beer. Do enjoy plenty of water with your meal.