According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1970, 26 percent of all food spending was on food away from home, but by 2005 that number had climbed to 41 percent.
It’s now 2012, so even despite – and maybe because of the bad economy – the percentage will have risen again. Who hasn’t been tempted to go through the drive through line and get something dubious in a box for a couple of bucks, rather than spending an extra few minutes preparing a healthy breakfast or brown bag lunch?
If you do eat out regularly and you’re trying to control your weight the following six tips should help you stick to a calorie-controlled diet.
Go Online First
Some restaurants post their menus on their websites and may include the calorie count for each item. There’s a suggestion that these calories may be underestimated, so check and add a few extra just in case. Decide what you’re going to eat before you get there and stick to what you know is going to be within your calorie budget. Disregard what everyone else orders, despite the mouthwatering descriptions. You’re also allowed to feel a little smug when other overweight people in your party order all the wrong things!
Forget the Fried Sides
Most restaurants will be quite accommodating if you want to swap the compulsory fries or baked potato for a salad, even though it may cost a little extra. See what vegetables they serve on the side or ask if there are other types of vegetables you enjoy that are usually served with an entrée but are not on the list.
Look for Steamed, Grilled or Broiled
Meat, fish or vegetables that are steamed, grilled or broiled will contain fewer calories than those that have been fried or slathered in a rich sauce. Order any sauce or butter on the side and ask for naked steamed veggies.
Don’t Starve Yourself all Day
If you know you’re going out for lunch or dinner, don’t skip the previous meal because you think you’ll be okay eating a big restaurant meal to make up for it. Just eat less at the previous meal. If you starve yourself you will arrive hungry and doubtless go for things you shouldn’t be eating. If it’s a buffet restaurant take small portions. Always eat slowly and savor what you have. This is not the last meal you’ll ever eat!
Ask for Water
You will cut out a lot of calories (and quite a lot of the total bill) if you stick to water or tea. Drinking water with a meal won’t add any calories and will help you feel full.
Finish your meal with a cup of black coffee or tea instead of ordering a fat-filled dessert. I know it’s hard, but as long as you have something in front of you, you won’t be tempted to order a dessert while everyone else packs down their pie or cake.
Get it to Go
If the restaurant is unfamiliar, take a good look at what other people are eating when you arrive. If the portions are enormous, ask the waiter to put half of your food in a to go container before you eat. It’s weird but they’ll do it. That way you won’t be tempted to clear your plate and regret it later.
Take a good look at the starters that are being served. Often they’re as big as an entrée and if you ask for a side of steamed veggies as well, it’s as good as a full meal – with many fewer calories. Have it served as your main course, so you don’t end up sitting staring at everyone else’s entrées. You could have a cocktail or glass of wine while everyone else is eating their starter, but drink water with the rest of the meal.
It takes a lot of self-control and a little planning, but if you follow these six tips you should be able to dine out frequently without putting on loads of unwanted pounds.
Have you lost weight with restaurant food? What were your results? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with us!