Eating out, to many people, is a big part of enjoying life. It certainly can be an event that is central to many important occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries. Regardless of the reason why we eat out, dining out has inevitably become a regular part in many people’s lifes.
Although eating out more may nurture many positive relationships, it can be not-so-good news to your waistline and your overall health status. Because of hidden fats, sugars and calories, eating out can be a dangerous trap that impedes your success to staying fit and healthy, and most likely have a negative impact to your weight loss efforts.
However, it is unrealistic to avoid all dining out since it has become such a big part of our social life. Thus the key is to dine out wisely. Being aware of the different caloric traps and knowing different strategies to deal with them will help you better navigate the menu and keep you steady on your path to being leaner and healthier.
Here are a few tips that I find helpful when I eat out:
1. Be picky. Instead of having a 3-course meal with a drink, pick and choose 3 items out of the 4 (or better yet save the beverage for special occasions). Choose what you want the most and focus on enjoying every bite.
2. Save it, share it, leave it. Serving size at restaurants are way out of proportion; an entree can easily serve 2-3 people. So when you’re having a nice time, you will easily eat until you clean your plate, consuming 2-3 times the calories you truly need. To avoid that, ask your server to pack up half the entree before it even gets to your table, or share an entree with a friend. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to clean your plate!
3. Ask for modifications. Restaurants are often very willing to accommodate your request as long as you ask nicely. Some easy changes to help cut back calories include: remove chicken skin on your chicken breast, ask for sauces & dressing to be served on the side, substitute higher-calorie side dishes with additional veggies.
4. Slow down. We tend to eat too fast. Ever felt like you ate a lot but just don’t feel quite full, then all of a sudden, you feel stuffed? This is because it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the signal that you are consuming food and send back the signal to acknowledge that you feel full. So it’s importsnt to eat slowly so you will receive the fullness signal before you eat too much. To prevent eating too quickly, develop the habit of not picking up food onto your fork until you have swallowed the last bite in your mouth.
5. Be mindful. We socialize when we dine out, so essentially, we multitask while we eat. Although socializing makes the overall experience more pleasant, it distracts us from eating and we end up eating on autopilot. As a result, the satisfaction from food is lowered and then you will crave more food in pursuit for more satisfaction. To combat this, be mindful of what you eat, be aware of what you put into your mouth and taste the food.
These five tips are easy ways to make sure I do not over-indulge when I eat out. Especially since I am in Hong Kong right now, these will be many more chances for me to eat out and these tips have definitely helped me to make smarter choices.
What guidelines / principles do you follow when you eat out? What would you add to these five tips?