Deciding to lose weight can be a daunting task, prompting the questions “what should I eat?” and “what shouldn’t I eat”? I’d like to simplify the matter by proposing that if you drop just three non-necessities from your meals, you will lose weight without sacrificing flavor or nutrients. This approach is particularly applicable to those of you who dine out regularly and feel this habit keeps you from your ideal weight. It doesn’t necessarily need to.
So what three things should you drop from your restaurant (and home) menus? First of all alcohol. It’s not so much the calories that alcohol contains that can lead to weight gain (though they are relatively high at 7 cal per gm – similar to fat which is 9 cal per gm), but it’s the way in which it is metabolized. Alcohol’s conversion to stored fat is fast and efficient. Plus, because alcohol calories receive the “VIP” treatment by the body and are metabolized first before carbs, fats, or proteins, so drinking alcohol suppresses your body’s ability to burn fat as fuel. Furthermore, alcohol increases appetite and decreases inhibition for overeating and we typically combine drinking with eating high-fat, high-calorie foods such as cheese. Extra alcohol calories tend to show up as abdominal fat, which is the most dangerous place for individuals to carry extra weight.
Second - skip the starches. If you’re dining out, ask your server to remove the bread basket, white rice, or chips and salsa. In Japan, rice is served at the end of a restaurant meal – so diners don’t waste their appetite or their calories on the simple starch. Instead of a starch, ask for double the vegetables, add a side salad to your entrée - or better yet, choose an entrée salad with plenty of veggies and protein.
Third – and perhaps most difficult for diners – skip the dessert. Order some fresh fruit instead. Pop a breath mint or hard candy to take the edge off your need for a sweet end to your meal. Order a cup of licorice herbal tea for a naturally sweet conclusion.
Now I realize that I may have suggested that you eliminate three of your favorite things, so here’s a compromise. Pick one of the three. For example, if you really want that glass of wine, skip the dessert and starches. If you just have to have that key lime pie, skip the liquor, potatoes and bread. You may not lose weight as rapidly as you would by eliminating all three, but you may be more likely to stick with your plan, while keeping cravings at bay.