Gluttony hides in a Corner Bakery Salad with 61 grams of fat (yes, a salad), or a Panera chicken sandwich with 1,000 calories. You could eat almost two nasty Big Macs instead of one Panera sandwich. Now if you think your fancy meal at a steak house is better, you’re wrong. Most restaurants don’t even list calories, fat, sodium, fiber...because if you knew how much fat was in your steak and potatoes, you might never dine out.
I’m not saying to starve or avoid dessert; I’m saying, eat smart. I LOVE sushi! I could eat it for every meal. But the savory eel sauce on the delicious dragon roll, is filled with fat, so instead of depriving myself, I’ll only eat it once a month. I’m not a nutritionist, but through my experience as a personal trainer I’ve come up with the following tips for dining out:
1. Portion, Distortion. This first tip is based on a book I’ve wanted to write for years:
Size does matter. This one is pretty basic. The size of protein in your meal should be about the size of your fist. For most people, this is not very big. Pasta or mashed potatoes should be about the size of a deck of cards. Your portion of non-starch vegetables can be about double the size of your pasta.
2. Doggie Bags are Cool. If you want the steak, the ribs, chicken parmesan…order it. Ask the waiter to cut the portion in half or split the meal and order a soup or salad. Restaurants like Cheesecake Factory have HUGE portions. Save yourself the calories and have them bring out half on your plate and the other in a doggie bag.
3. Salads 101. Corner Bakery, Panera, and Cosi all have salad options, most of which are filled with sodium and fat. A few easy tips to save your waist line:
• Dressing on the side
• Hold the croutons
• No BLUE CHEESE
• Baco’s instead of Bacon
• Cheese on the side
• Creamy dressings are higher in fat
• Vinaigrettes are usually the healthiest dressings
• Fruit adds great flavors to spinach/lettuce salads
• Add beans, chicken, turkey and other lean proteins
• Spinach has more fiber than lettuce
If there’s anything special that’s unhealthy and you want it on your salad, order it on the side. If you want bacon or croutons, eat it, just add small quantities.
4. Soups 101. Clear or vegetable broths are usually the healthiest. Ask if the soup is cream based or contains cream, if so, the small soup becomes a belly-buster. If you want broccoli and cheddar soup, have some, just order a cup instead of a bowl. Look at the sodium. I’m not going to lecture you on salt intake, but sodium is not healthy and many soups are sodium factories. This especially applies to canned soups and fast food restaurants. Broccoli and Cheddar soup (8 ounces) at Panera has 968 milligrams of sodium. Gross.
5. Steam. Butter is most restaurants’ favorite tool, and you know why? It tastes awesome. Butter is the artery clogging, heart attack causing fat, so ask for steamed vegetables or fish. Most restaurants will listen if you ask for light on the cream, butter, oil…
6. Snacks. When you’re really hungry, you eat a lot. Many people figure, I’m going to Shay Fancy for dinner so I won’t eat a lot during the day. WRONG. By not eating enough food your metabolism goes into starvation mode and slows down. Eat! A healthy snack, apples and a handful of almonds, will help you from over-eating. If you need healthy snack options, shoot me a line. If you have a great snack option, share.
7. Salt and Sugar. Sugar and salt are a chefs best friend (along with butter). Not only are they unhealthy but they are trigger foods. Trigger foods make you over eat. I’m not saying you can blame your love handles on salt/sugar but less in this case is more. Add less sugar to your coffee, fruit does not need extra sugar and try to avoid using the salt on the table.
I am not suggesting you skip fried calamari and apple pie and then go for a run. Listen to your belly. If your meal tastes really buttery, salty, or creamy, eat less, drink lots of water, and save room for a cookie…a small cookie.
Keep reading; next week I’m reviewing an arm band that tracks all the calories you burn and how much sleep you’re getting. I can’t wait!