We all like to unwind and go out on the weekends, but if we’re not careful, we can sabotage all the hard work we have put in during the week. Here are some tips to help keep you on track while you’re out and about.
1. Educate yourself. Take some time to look at the menu online before you. Figure out what the healthy options are – grilled items, salads, vegetables, etc. Decide what you will order before you go and stick to it your decision once you get there.
2. Be the first to order. You decided what you were going to order before you got there, but when your friend orders the steak frites, you start to rethink your grilled chicken. To avoid the temptation to change your order, place your order first. If this isn’t possible, close your menu, have a sip of water, and repeat your selection to yourself to help you stick with it.
3. Have it your way. Before ordering your selections, ask the server about the details of the meal. This will help you make more informed choices. Some questions to ask include: How is this dish prepared? What ingredients are used? What comes with this meal? Can I make substitutions? Don’t be afraid to make special requests. For example, ask that foods be served with minimal butter, margarine or oil. Ask if a particular dish can be broiled or baked rather than fried.
You may also be able to make substitutions. If the ingredients are on the menu, the chef should be able to accommodate your needs. If your dish does not arrive at the table the way you ordered it, don’t be afraid to send it back. If you don’t see something you like, ask for it. As a paying customer, you have the right to eat not only what tastes good, but what’s good for you. Be “weight assertive”!
4. Stay away from snacking. The most damage often occurs before the actual meal begins: calorie-laden appetizers and bread baskets. Avoid these and instead order a salad, which will take time to eat and fill you up with fiber. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that volunteers who ate a big veggie salad before the main course ate fewer calories overall than those who didn’t have a first-course salad.
5. Try double appetizers. Certain appetizers can be excellent choices for an entree. The portion size of appetizers is often more appropriate than the extremely large portions provided in entrees. Consider healthful options such as steamed seafood (for example, shrimp cocktail), salads that aren’t loaded with high-fat ingredients (such as cheese and bacon), grilled vegetables and broth-based soups. You might also choose to combine the appetizer with a salad; the salad will bulk up the meal so that you feel more satisfied without adding a lot of calories.
6. Be salad savvy. A salad can be your meal’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you toss it. Pile on
fresh greens, beans and veggies, but don’t drown it with high-fat dressings or toppings like cheese, eggs, bacon or croutons. Pick calorie-friendly dressings (vinaigrettes or even a generous squeeze of fresh lemon). Remember, too, that you can gain control over the fat and calories in your salad by ordering the dressing on the side. Measure out a small amount of dressing with your spoon, or with thicker salad dressing, use the fork-dipping method. Dip the tines of your salad fork in the dressing, and then spear the leaves of your salad. That way, you get a taste of the dressing with each bite of salad. Another idea is to carry one of those salad spritzer products in your purse. Order your salad without dressing. Pull out your spritzer and spray your salad.
7. Choose low-fat cooking methods. Choose grilled, broiled or baked meats and entrees. Pan-fried and deep-fried foods give you extra fat you don’t need. Broiling, baking, steaming, poaching and grilling seafood, skinless poultry, lean meat and veggies give you all the flavor without all the fat.
8. Ask to “triple the vegetables, please.” Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really like garnish—a carrot and a forkful of squash. When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra.
9. Enjoy alcohol in moderation: Drinks can lead you to overeating so be careful! Ice water is free, but fancy mixed drinks have lots of empty calories, and the alcohol can dull your reasoning. Since alcohol can contribute significant amounts of calories, limiting your intake to 150 calories’ worth is a good idea. The following portions of alcohol each contain 150 calories or less: 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor, 12 oz. of light beer. Maybe decide ahead of time at which point in the meal your beverage would be most satisfying. For example, you may want to save your glass of wine for your entree and sip water while you wait for your meal. Holding off on alcohol until a later course also helps to decrease alcohol’s effect on your inhibitions. If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it can relax you to the point that you lose sight of your game plan.
And skip the fancy drinks! If you must order an alcoholic drink, forget the margaritas, piña coladas, and other exotic mixed drinks. They include sugary additions that only add calories. Opt instead for a glass of wine, a light beer, or my favorite, a simple (dirty) martini (without the chocolate liquor, sour green apple schnapps, or triple sec.)
10. Practice portion control. Restaurants serve mountains of food—about two to three times the quantity that we need in a meal. This is no big secret. Eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed, and take the rest home. As you’re eating, listen to your internal hunger signals and stop when you have had enough. Eating slowly helps you recognize such cues. Keep track of how much you eat, and stick to the number of servings you planned to eat. You can rely on visual references to guide you. For example:
A serving of cooked meat, chicken, or fish is like the palm of your hand, or about the size of a deck of cards.
A serving of fruit or vegetables is like your fist, or about the size of a tennis ball.
A serving of baked potato looks like a baseball.
An ounce of cheese is like your middle and index fingers together, or about the size of four stacked dice.
A serving of salad dressing is like your thumb.
A 3-ounce hamburger patty is the size of a quart-size mayonnaise jar lid.
11. Skip the dessert. You can always have some sorbet or even a small piece of chocolate at home. That is much better healthwise than the Triple Chocolate Meltdown or a mountain of ice cream topped by a second mountain of whipped cream. But if you must, take three bites and then set it aside for a few minutes. You’re less likely to come back to it. You might even discover that those few bites of a great dessert can be very satisfying, and might be all you really wanted in the first place.