The good weather always brings people out to enjoy restaurants. I have observed in my practice that healthy eaters at home are not necessarily healthy eaters at restaurants. I often hear clients say they just want to indulge or they just want to eat what they want. Others say there is never anything healthy on a menu or the healthy items just don’t look appetizing. Honestly, this is where diners go wrong.
It is my job as a nutritionist to coach my clients into understanding that they do not have to deprive themselves in a restaurant and can always walk out feeling like they had an enjoyable meal. Here are some tips I find useful.
1. Speak to a Manager (not the server)
Instead of ordering one of the “healthful” items on the menu (let’s face it they can be bland) you can order off the menu. You will need to talk to someone who knows all about the food and can make some revisions in preparation methods such as using no butter or less oil, grilled or sauteed instead of fried. Managers are able to offer more interesting and flavorful suggestions according to your palette. I suggest my clients make the phone call previous to the dinner and then not feel that they are holding up the party with their high maintenance desires. I often will call the restaurant for my client and figure out the best entrees and then they are so happy to dine and order and have all the challenges removed on what to order. Some clients tell me that they do not even open the menu, just sit, relax and socialize.
2. Skip the Salad
If you are ordering the salad “because it is healthy” or to get veggies forget it. Salads often consist of lettuce of low nutrient value (dark greens have all the nutrition) along with high fat surprises such as croutons, cheese, nuts, bacon and dressing– adding up to as much as 500 calories for a side salad. Just order double veggies and no starch with the meal. If the meal is a la carte order a side of broccolini or spinach.
3. Don’t Trust Your Instincts
Unless you decide from the beginning to share an entree with a friend, it is best to avoid restaurants that serve large portions. Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindful Eating, showed in his research that people tend to eat 30-50% more when served large portions in restaurants, even if it does not taste good.
4. Ask for the Doggie Bag with Dinner
I recently read in People magazine that it is chic to order a doggie bag along with your dinner order so don’t feel uncomfortable about this. It really works. Chances are you won’t even miss it and have a yummie lunch for the next day.
5. Stand Up and Lose Weight
Have you often noticed that it is not until you stand up at the end of a meal that you notice how full you are? It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send the “I am full” message to your brain. Find an excuse to stand up midway during your meal such as going to the bathroom and check in with yourself and see if you had enough to eat.
6. Look at the Dessert Menu
If my client is a dessert person I tell them to look at the dessert menu first and then order backwards. Plan your meal around the wonderful cheesecake. This means go lite on the bread and eat more protein foods and veggies.
7. Create Closure to the Meal
Most of us need a signal that the meal is over. Unfortunately, for many of us it is when the food is gone and your plate is empty. I suggest a closure technique to reduce nibbling such as moving the plate away or covering it with salt and pepper or ordering a cup of coffee to nicely end the meal.
I assure you if you take these seven suggestions seriously you will not gain weight at all at restaurants you frequent, even if you dine out several times a week. If you feel like you need a coach to hold your hand and help you lose weight the right way for once and for all I would be thrilled to help you. I am glad to inform you that most insurances cover my services such as Aetna, Sutter Select, ABMG, Health Net, Hill Physicians, and other established companies.