Diet and exercise programs often expound the dangers of eating out – many restaurant meals are very high in calories. For example, seafood pasta can pack as many as 1,200 calories. Many studies have backed up this idea, citing that people who eat out regularly consume more calories and carry more body fat than their counterparts who don’t.
A recent University of Texas at Austin study, however, suggests that if you eat mindfully, you can reduce the calorie and fat intake when dining out. In the study, healthy, premenopausal women, who ate out at least three times a week, attended six weekly sessions on nutrition and preventing weight gain. In the sessions, the participants discussed eating-out strategies. Women who participated in the program managed to cut their daily intake by 297 calories, about half of which were from eating out sessions. This cut in calories resulted in an average loss of 3.7 pounds from their waist.
The following are some strategies on how to cut calories when you eat out:
- Do your research beforehand. Most chain restaurants have their nutritional and calorie information on their website. If not, ask for the nutritional information at the restaurant.
- Make sure your grilled meat, fish or chicken is not grilled with butter or oil!
- Choose tomato-based pasta dishes rather than creamy ones (like Alfredo sauce)
- Stick with broth based soups instead of cream ones
- Order sandwiches with whole grain bread
- Order steamed vegetables, green salad or steamed brown rice instead of French fries.
- Request lower-fat items even if they’re not on the menu, such as fat-reduced salad dressing or berries for dessert.
- Ask for dressings, gravies and condiments on the side.
- Request your meal be prepared without added salt, MSG or sodium containing ingredients such as soy sauce and broths.
- Order two appetizers, or an appetizer and a side salad, instead of a large meal.
- Cut down on starchy menus by skipping the bread, ordering a half-portion of pasta or asking for extra vegetables instead of potatoes and rice.
- Slow down your pace. Chew your meal fully after every bite.
- Stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full. It takes twenty minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach has had enough.
By following the above tips, in tandem with an exercise program, you will be able to eat out guilt-free while maintaining or achieving a healthy weight!