By: Miraval’s Nancy Teeter, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Studies show that people who eat out regularly consume–on average,–200 calories per day more than those who don’t. These excess calories are due to food quantity, caloric density and mindless eating. Eat an extra 100 calories a day without burning them off and you’ll weigh 10 pounds more at the end of a year.
Apply these steps to achieve a healthful dining experience when eating out.
Step One: Plan Ahead
Choose an eating establishment that is known for healthy menu options. Peruse the menu ahead of time (many restaurants post their menus online) and select menu items with your health and wellness goals in mind.
Step Two: Order First
If you order first, you will be far less likely to be tempted to order something less healthy. For example, perhaps you decided to order the planked wild salmon filet with barley-mushroom pilaf and sautéed spinach, and your dining companion orders fish and chips with creamy coleslaw. If you’ve already ordered, you are not likely to change, but if you order last, you might think “Ah, what the heck! That sounds better.”
Step Three: Order Skinny Vegetables
Begin your meal with veggies. Choose a soup loaded with vegetables (such as minestrone or lentil with vegetables) or order a large vegetable salad. Request olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side and use it as dressing. Skip the cheese, croutons, bacon bits, candied nuts and dried cranberries. Select an entrée that is accompanied by at least one vegetable; two is better.
Step Four: Delay the Bread Basket
Let’s face it; most restaurants don’t serve truly outstanding bread. When the bread basket arrives, take a peak under the napkin and decide if the bread appears to be uniquely high quality. If it is, then delay having a piece until your first course arrives and take a small slice to accompany your meal. Many people fill up on bread before the first course arrives. An Olive Garden bread stick with garlic butter spread contains 140 calories provided by white enriched flour and unhealthy fat. Most people don’t stop at one.
Step Five: Be Mindful
When your meal arrives, take a moment to consider the food on your plate. Admire the artistry. Consider your hunger level and decide how much food will be needed to satisfy your hunger. Visually separate that amount (or better yet, physically divide it and request a box). Take a bite, chew and savor. If the food item doesn’t delight your senses, stop eating it. Whenever you’ve reached a point of satisfaction, stop eating.
Step Six: Share a Dessert
If the dessert selections are truly unique and delicious and you still have physical hunger, order one delicious dessert to share. Eat the dessert as mindfully as you did your dinner. Stop when you are satisfied.