Weight Loss Strategy No. 5: While Dining Out

Americans eat an average of one of three meals out. Watching your weight is no reason for you to avoid eating out in restaurants. In fact, it’s a good idea to get some practice at making wise choices when someone else is preparing your food since you will be confronted with this often. Knowing what to pick and being specific when ordering makes sticking to your meal plan easy. Most restaurants these days are more than willing to make minor modifications in the way they prepare and serve your foods so eating out will be easier than you think.

Eating Out Guidelines
Do your best to choose foods that you have become accustomed to eating: fish, poultry, fresh fruits, steamed vegetables, salads, low fat soups, whole grain breads. Keep portion size in mind. Apply moderation to those foods you know are not prepared “ideally.” Whenever you are in doubt, ask how the foods are prepared. Try to make your choices “fit” your meal plan for the day.
Foods prepared in the following ways are generally safe: steamed, broiled, in its own juice, or poached -provided you ask for no butter or oil, and sauce on the side.

To keep fat intake low avoid foods that are: au gratin, in butter, oil, gravy, or cream sauce, saut?ed, fried, braised, escalloped. Foods made with mayonnaise, such as cole slaw, tuna, chicken, or egg salad, are all high in fat.

Limit your use of “added” fats: butter, sour cream, and salad dressing.

Don’t be intimidated by the waiter: they are there to serve you. The cook may not always be able to meet your specific requests, but there’s no harm in asking.

If you’ve asked for something such as “dressing on the side” don’t accept the food if it comes any other way.
Appetizers can be quite filling in place of a main entree. Eaten with a large salad they can fit, portion-wise, into your meal plan much better.

Splitting an item with a friend is another good way to keep portions under control. If there is something too good to resist, have someone else order it and sample just enough to keep you happy.

Don’t be afraid to ask for food to be wrapped to take home. Portions are notoriously large in most restaurants (particularly protein foods) and portion-control is vital to your weight loss program.

Be careful when eating breakfast out. Most choices are very high in fat. Pick fresh fruit if available, or juice. Order toast, or half a bagel dry, you can add your own jelly. Muffins can be loaded with fat, but many places now offer low-fat versions. Protein foods pose a bit of a problem. Cottage cheese, if low fat, is a good choice if you can get it. Eggbeaters, or omelets made with egg whites and veggies are healthy and tasty. Low-fat or non-fat yogurt or milk will also give you a few grams of protein if there are no other options. Skip the sausage, bacon, and croissants. Use milk in your coffee instead of cream to help keep your fat grams under control.

Start lunch and dinner off with soup, or make it your meal. Unless it’s a cream soup, clam chowder, or cheese soup, it will most likely be low in fat. Since it takes a little time to eat and is satisfying, you won’t be as hungry for the rest of your meal.

Alcohol calories add up quickly, so it’s best to skip the cocktails or wine. Sip on seltzer or bottled water instead and you’ll lose weight faster.

Have the bread removed from the table if you can’t resist reaching in the basket. If you do have some, work it into your meal plan and use the butter sparingly.

Salads can be great for weight loss, but dressings, olives, cheese, bacon, croutons, and various other toppings are not. Ask for these items to be left off and have dressing on the side. It is best if you stick with no-oil dressings (which many restaurants don’t have) or use vinegar or lemon juice. Many people carry their own dressing with them, which no one seems to mind, and there are individual portion packages of no-oil dressing which you can keep on hand. If you use a low-fat (not no-fat) dressing, monitor your portions carefully.

If there are certain foods, such as baked potatoes you can’t eat without adding fats (butter, sour cream), you may want to avoid them altogether. However, give some alternatives, such as salsa, a try -you may find you enjoy it even more.

Try to get substitutes, such as vegetables or salad, to replace French fries, cole slaw or potato salad. If no substitutes are allowed, remember you are under no obligation to clean your plate. Give them to someone else or ask for them to be left off your plate entirely.

Desserts are the hardest thing to fit in your meal plan because most are loaded with fat, sugar and calories. Fresh fruit is safe, but not always.

Fast food restaurants, although the most convenient, are also the toughest places to eat and still stick to your meal plan. If they offer salad and a low-fat dressing, that’s a good start. Order the smallest item on the menu (a hamburger, versus a quarter pounder), avoid the French fries and eschew the desserts.

With Mexican food, watch out for fried items such as taco shells, refried beans and high-fat toppings such as sour cream, cheese, and avocados.

Eating at someone’s home is a bit more challenging because you don’t want to offend anyone. Most people will understand you “passing” on certain items if you explain nicely and firmly that you are trying your hardest to make some dietary changes. When avoidance is out of the question, try to have just a little.