“I can’t lose weight. I eat out all the time.”
Eating out does make losing weight difficult, but not impossible! It’s often a simple matter of making informed choices. You need to figure out how often you eat out, which food choices to make, and which foods you should avoid in your favorite restaurants.
Americans claim to be interested in healthier and more nutritious foods, yet the best-selling fast foods are still hamburgers, fries, fried chicken, pizza and donuts. Even the sale of high-fat, high-sugar cinnamon rolls is increasing every year. One day we see fast-food outlets selling non-fat or low-fat frozen fruit yogurts; the next day they’re promoting double fudge-cake. We can eat small portions of high fat-foods on occasion, but not on a daily basis. There are many low-fat foods, which are more nutritious and yet tasty.
If you are on a budget, it is much more economical to prepare your own food at home. Thirty years ago, people cooked and most meals were eaten at home. In 2004, Americans spent over ten times more eating out than in 1974, over half on fast food. If you complain about the cost of a sports club membership, think of the incredible savings if you eat out less!
YOUR DINING OUT PLAN
Next time you go to a restaurant:
1) Take five minutes to look at the menu.
2) Make healthy choices.
3) Order ½ portions or share with a friend.
4) Stop eating before you feel full.
5) Take leftovers home with you.
6) Notice how good you feel.
Wow! For once you’re not stuffed, the meal tasted wonderful, you feel under control, and you don’t feel guilty. What a change!
“Mom, what if I’m hungry afterwards?” my daughter asked me, when I ordered a salad and a sandwich to share. “Then we’ll order some more.” I assured her. And, inevitably, we weren’t hungry afterwards. When I dine out with my sons, I only order a salad or soup for myself. If I’m still hungry, I pinch from whatever they order - bite of hamburger, a spare rib, roast potato - whatever I like. Again, I won’t let them starve. If they’re still hungry, we can order some more. But we never do. What does happen is that I can keep my weight steady, and food isn’t wasted. Try this with your family or friends; the rule of thumb is to eat half of what you normally would consume.
Restaurant portions are usually enormous. Customers expect large portions most of the time and the restaurant will supply large portions to satisfy customer demand. If you want to eat less and find the restaurant doesn’t serve small portions, you may feel that you have no recourse. But take heart, you do! If the portion size is too big for you, eat only until your hunger is satisfied and take home the leftovers in a doggie bag. Don’t be afraid to ask; people do all the time.
You start with bread because you’re starved. The service is slow so you eat two or three slices of bread, with butter, before your order arrives. You’ve had two drinks while waiting. You order a carrot soup - there’s cream in it. You order pasta with tomato sauce - you see fat globules on the side of the plate when you finish your meal. You order grilled chicken - you know you’ll take the skin off - they serve it with gravy. You order grilled vegetables - they’re glistening with oil marinade. Wow, making healthy food choices sure is difficult!
Although restaurant eating may only be a small part of your total diet, you should still make sensible food choices. Sophisticated restaurants will cater to your smallest whim. However, in most restaurants, you need to know how the food is prepared.
If you’re eating late, don't arrive ravenous. If you are famished, you won’t be able to think about making healthy selections. You’ll want to put food into your mouth as quickly as possible - healthy or not. At that stage, you’re too hungry to care.
You’ve had a snack earlier, so now you can take your time. Spend a few minutes to look at the menu and be fussy! Spoil yourself. Decide what you really feel like eating and order that food prepared in a low-fat way. Ask for food the way you like it. You are the customer. Order dishes and request that they are prepared with less oil and sauces or with the salad dressing served on the side. Request combinations that you want.
SAVE CALORIES WITH BETTER CHOICES
Save 55 calories: choose a plain roll instead of a garlic roll
Save 110 calories: choose salad with low-fat dressing instead of Caesar dressing
Save 265 calories: choose a hamburger with salad instead of fries
Save 215 calories: choose chicken and vegetable stir-fry instead of fried chicken
COMMON SENSE CUISINE
The following are examples of healthy lower fat options you can choose when dining out:
Water, mineral water with lemon or lime, tomato juice, diet soda, alcoholic drink alternating with water.
Soups: clear, tomato-based, lentil, bean or vegetable (minestrone) soup.
No cream soups or onion soup.
Salad with dressing on the side, raw vegetables, fresh fruit.
No Caesar salad.
Bread or rolls, whole grain, dark rye.
No butter, garlic bread, muffins, cornbread, croissants.
Steamed clams or mussels, grilled calamari.
No breaded or deep-fried varieties, snails.
Steamed, broiled, baked, roasted, barbecued or poached are words to look for with meat (cut off the fat), fish or chicken (take off the skin), along with prepared in its own juice, tomato juice, marinara, white wine or lemon juice, accompanied by steamed rice, small boiled/baked potato or pasta with tomato sauce and a large portion of steamed vegetables. No porterhouse, T-bone or prime-rib meats, rich or creamy sauces (Hollandaise, bearnaise, bechamel), gravies, butter, sour cream, mayonnaise. No fried or battered dishes.
Pizza - thin crusts, little cheese, plenty of vegetables.
No pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon.
Whole grain pasta if they have it. Pasta fagioli, pasta primavera, tortellini in broth, pasta in a light tomato or white wine sauce (marsala), ravioli, tortellini and agnolotti with vegetable or lean meat fillings, veal cacciatore, grilled seafood, roasted or grilled vegetables.
No bruschetta, garlic bread, oil-marinated antipastos, stuffed clams or mushrooms, pasta with alfredo, pesto, carbonara or cream sauces, risotto, lasagna, cheesy parmigianas or veal picata.
Tzatziki, Greek salads (little dressing), pita, steamed rice, shishkebab, roasted meat (small portions).
No phyllo pastry, babaganoush.
Wonton and hot-and-sour soup. Steamed dim sum, dumplings or brown rice with stir-fried beef, chicken or prawns, chow mein, chop suey, tofu, egg foo yung, plenty of vegetables.
No deep-fried or battered foods such as spring rolls and chicken balls. No dishes with sweet-and-sour or peanut sauces.
Gazpacho, vegetable or black-bean soup. Beef, chicken or seafood fajitas, chili, enchiladas, tostadas, burritos, soft tacos, rice dishes, salsa or tortillas.
No cheese, guacamole, sour cream, deep-fried tacos, corn chowder, chili con carne, nachos, chimichangas, refried beans, deep-fried ice cream.
Miso soup, seaweed salad, edamame, teriyaki dishes, sushi and sashimi, nakemono, yakimono, stir-fried meats, chicken, fish, tofu, steamed rice and vegetables.
No tempura or deep-fried dishes, chicken or beef katsu.
Fish soup, clear soup, steamed mussels, Thai salad with lemon dressing, basil beef or chicken, ginger beef or chicken, beef, chicken or seafood satays or kebabs and steamed rice.
No Thai rolls, pad Thai noodles, dishes with coconut milk, peanut or curry sauce.
Mulligatawny soup, cucumber raita salad, tandoori dishes, tikka dishes, kebabs, shrimp bhuna, fish mesala, biryani, pilaf, lentil dishes (dal), basmati rice with vegetables and breads (not fried): chapati, naan, pulka, padars.
No samosas, pakoras, khorma, bhajis, coconut soup, poori, dishes cooked with cream, butter, ghee or cheese and fried breads: bhatura, padars, paratha, naan. No desserts such as: jalaybee, gulabjamine.
Buns, lean meats, turkey, chicken, smoked meat, tuna (no mayo), pickles, tomatoes.
No croissants, salami, bologna, Polish sausage.
Fresh fruit, sherbet, Italian ices, biscotti, or share your favorite dessert.
Cappuccino or café latte with skim or 1% fat milk.
BE FUSSY AT FOOD COURTS
“Everything is fried!” Wrong! Everything you ordered before was fried or wrapped in batter. Food courts give you choices. Now, you can make healthy choices. Once again, it only takes a few moments to think about it. If you forgot your sandwich at home, you can “custom-order” one at a food stand: ask for a whole wheat roll with a boiled egg, slice of chicken, cold cuts, or plain crab. And tell them to hold the mayonnaise. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, bean sprouts, dill, relish, salsa or mustard to make the sandwich moist and yummy.
Instead of battered or fried foods, choose lightly stir-fried meats and vegetables. Know which foods are low in calories and low in fat such as Japanese stir-fry or vegetable soup with a plain roll. Choose these items and discover what they taste like. If you like them, try them again. You’ll find that you feel great afterwards instead of sluggish and guilty.
Low-fat versions of muffins (400 calories) do not mean you can eat twice as much as regular muffins (500 calories), you still must watch your quantities. If you are an ice cream freak, try the sorbets, gelatos, low-fat ice creams and yogurts. Although most of these are lower in fat, they are only slightly lower in calories than regular ice cream, so don’t indulge in larger portions. Substitute volume for volume. If you used to have one scoop of ice cream twice a week, you now have one scoop of sorbet once a week. You aren’t depriving yourself; you’re just being choosy.
FAST FOODS NEEDN’T BE JUNK FOODS
“I’m a junk food freak” - Andrea, student.
Andrea started college and found that she was living on hamburgers, fries, pizzas, chips, cookies, chocolate and ice cream. In her first year she gained twenty-five pounds and none of her clothes fit anymore. This is so common among students; it has been discussed in nutrition journals and is known as the “sweat suit syndrome,” Nothing fits first-year university students except sweat suits that stretch to fit any size. Once our children leave home and don’t have regular healthy meals prepared for them, their newfound freedom often goes to their heads. Even between meals they will indulge in chips, cake or pastries, whether they feel like consuming these foods or not. It’s a social thing. Andrea developed a “fat tooth.” She got used to the “mouthfeel” of fatty foods and the full feeling after a meal or snack. In the beginning, she felt quite stuffed but soon found she could eat more and more without getting full. Just as she used to eat lower-fat foods and less quantity, Andrea quickly learned to eat high-fat foods and large quantities. She does like fresh fruits, salads and vegetables, but never gets around to eating them.
I set Andrea a well-balanced meal plan including all the healthy food choices that she liked. I told her that if she was still hungry, she could eat a fatty food, but half the quantity. She found that this worked for her, and with subsequent weight loss, fatty foods were less appealing to her. Eventually, if the meal was too high in fat she felt uncomfortable and realized that she didn’t like the feeling. She also felt motivated when she found she could start fitting into her “thin” clothes again. You need to lower your tolerance for fat. Once you get used to a lower fat intake, you don’t enjoy the drained, sluggish feeling that comes from a high-fat meal.
You can eat hamburgers. You can eat a plain burger with tomato, onions, mustard, relish and lettuce, but don’t add mayonnaise. A grilled chicken (skin removed) on a bun, again without the mayonnaise, is another option. With mini subs (turkey, beef or seafood plus lots of vegetables) ask for the bun to be thinly scraped with mayonnaise. A quarter-chicken dinner (no skin), baked potato and salad with dressing on the side; pizza with lots of vegetables and less meats and cheeses - all sound good. Avoid the fries or chicken nuggets, or save them for a time when you really feel like them.
Many fast-food chains offer healthy breakfasts consisting of low-fat muffins, toast or cereal with fruit salad. You don’t have to have the sausage, bacon, fried eggs and hashed browns. A lighter, more nutritious breakfast starts off a better day.
The word salad does not mean eat as much as you like. Salad bars offer a variety of low-fat and high-fat items. When I eat at a salad bar, I choose lettuce, tomato, chickpeas, beans, bean sprouts, cucumber, radishes and cottage cheese, then add a small spoonful of potato or pasta salad instead of dressing. This is my way of limiting my fat intake. Choose the salads you like then add a little dressing, not globs of it. Some places give you the choice of low-fat dressings. Serve yourself only take one plateful and enjoy.
Choose dark salad greens whenever you can. Romaine lettuce has six times as much vitamin C, eight times as much beta-carotene, and twice as much folacin (a B-vitamin) as iceberg lettuce. Some restaurants have a variety of salads that include other dark green leaves such as spinach, watercress, arugula and chicory. Ask for the dressing on the side.
Vegetarian does not mean low fat. Indeed, many vegetarians come to me to lose weight. If you dine at a vegetarian restaurant, ask how the dishes are prepared. Invariably, the same low-fat rules apply.
Some vegetarians assume that if they do not eat meat, they can eat donuts and chips instead. No! A vegetarian diet has to have much more of the grains, beans, cereals, fruits and vegetables to get the same amount of nutrients as people who do eat meat, fish, chicken, milk and eggs. So, increasing your vegetable consumption is important, but don’t replace meat with poor-quality high-fat foods.
A while ago, I was invited to a party. When it was time to help ourselves to the buffet table, I found one of my friends rounding up people to follow me. They were going to choose the same as I did. I laughed at their folly: they were going to eat the foods I liked instead of the foods they liked. I’m sure they went for seconds and chose everything else they wanted.
A buffet is difficult because the sight of so much bounty stimulates your eyes and makes your mouth water. Consequently, you pile your plate with two or three helpings. Say to yourself beforehand, “I’m going to a buffet, so let me think first. I’m going to eat a normal meal. At home, I would only eat one plate of food and that’s what I’m going to restrict myself to at the buffet.” This is not an easy resolution to honor.
Are your portions too large? Do you load your plate numerous times at the all-you-can-eat buffets, to get your money’s worth? Do you leave the table feeling stuffed? And decide never to let that happen again - only to repeat the same process the next time you go out. Picture this:
You enter the restaurant. You order your diet pop or water and feel relaxed. You stroll around the entire buffet selection. You see a wide variety of foods. Many are high in fat, fried and greasy. But many are low in fat, fresh and crispy. You decide to fill your plate only once. You discriminate - dish up the low-fat choices for yourself, sit down and enjoy your food choices. You then go for dessert - choose lovely fresh fruit with a small scoop of ice cream and feel comfortable. You order your coffee and chat with companions. Leave the restaurant and go for a half-hour walk.
What a picture! The next time you go to a buffet, go with a different attitude. Put yourself in the picture. It’s worth it.
CAREFUL AT CAFETERIAS
“Mom, what can I eat here?” My daughter said when I visited her at the university residence. This is the same question I am asked by office workers who have a workplace cafeteria. I’m surprised that low-fat foods are not served more often in cafeterias. When I mention this to cafeteria personnel, they tell me that no one orders the lower-fat items, so they go to waste.
When students gain weight in their first year at college, it’s largely because they’re not taking advantage of the lower-fat choices available. Follow the principles of making sensible choices and you’ll succeed at eating a healthy diet. Always aim to pile your plates with vegetables and fruits, and then add the other items - bread (without butter), salads (dressing on the side), sandwiches with various fillings and the occasional low-fat main course when it’s offered. Choose the high-fat course, if it’s your favorite dish (and well prepared), but the key is to choose smaller portions.
PREPARE FOR PARTIES
“I try my best to follow healthy eating habits, then go to a party which only serves beer and pizza. I resist eating these foods until later in the evening. Then get hungry, eat the pizza and drink the beer. Because my diet is ‘ruined,’ I give up and eat and drink all night long” - Dorothy, new graduate.
Dorothy has good intentions. She eats a light snack before a party so to limit consumption of high-fat snacks. However, her friends tempt her with beer and by late evening she gets so hungry she overindulges in pizza. She feels bad and gives up eating healthy foods.
Dorothy needs to realize that one meal does not make or break a healthy way of eating. Dietitians go to parties. When there is no choice, many of them eat whatever there is, in moderation. They don’t let this upset them. And the next day, they resume a healthy attitude. Relax and don’t be so hard on yourself! A high-fat snack occasionally should not topple all your good intentions or undermine your healthy goals.
“When everyone eats chips, I eat pretzels,” a client boasts. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t allow yourself to pig out on pretzels either. If you usually eat thirty chips, you can replace them with fourteen medium pretzels, not unlimited amounts. Pretzels are low in fat, not calorie-free.
The snack foods at parties are often “fat-attacks.” Their main ingredient is fat and the rest is salt, sugar and flavorings. If you know that chips, nachos and chicken wings are being served at the party you are about to attend, eat a healthy snack beforehand. That will take away your hungry feeling. If later on in the evening, after some dancing you feel hungry, eat just half the amount you would usually eat. That way, you feel normal but not deprived. Remember, high-fat snacks mean bigger slacks!
The calorie values of some popular snack foods are as follows:
Candy, caramels (6 pieces): 240
Chocolate bar, plain (1.5 oz): 205
Hard candy (6 pieces), jelly beans (10): 115
Popcorn, (3 cups), air-popped: 90
Popcorn, caramel corn: 400
Potato chips (15): 160
Sunflower seeds (1/2 cup): 370
Nachos and cheese (7): 350
It is harder to control food portions when eating out at a friend’s house. Homemade food has great appeal. The solution to not losing control is to dish up small portions of all your favorite dishes and not have seconds. Try it; with practice, consuming one portion only will become second nature, and you’ll feel satisfied, not bloated, at the end of the meal.
When you’re entertaining, you’re in control. No one will know that your food is low in fat because you’ll make plenty of it, present it beautifully and it will be tasty.
A LOW-FAT MENU FOR ENTERTAINING
Small triangles of rye bread with a scraping of cream cheese and one slice smoked salmon
Low-fat crackers with a slice of boiled egg and ¼ tsp caviar
Small pitas filled with salad and tuna mixed with low-fat mayonnaise
Green salad with low-fat dressing
Beef stir-fry served with steamed brown rice and plenty of tasty vegetables - especially the colorful ones
Fruit cut in squares and put on a stick, like a fruit kebab
“Barbecues are my downfall. Making large quantities of food is deeply imbedded in this tradition.” - Mary, socialite.
This problem is easily identified - Mary cooks too much food at her barbecue, so it becomes a portion problem. In fact, barbecuing is a healthy way to eat. Use the following as guidelines:
1. Offer healthy snacks to guests or high-fat snacks that aren’t tempting to you.
2. Cook only enough for your group.
3. If you cook too much, put away the excess food immediately - perishables in fridge, freezable dishes in freezer.
4. Don’t nibble on leftovers.
5. Send decadent desserts home with guests.
6. Dish up moderate portions each day until the food is finished.
7. Notice that you’re feeling pleased with yourself.
A MENU FOR HEALTHY BARBECUING
Crudites (raw vegetables) with salsa or yogurt dip
Pretzels or popcorn
Small squares of whole-wheat toast with cottage cheese and a slice of dill pickle
Clear, vegetable or lentil soup
Barbequed salmon (cut in 3-oz servings)
Baked potatoes, cut in half and served with low-fat sour cream
Barbecued corn (cut into 2” portions), eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions
Sliced cabbage salad with small squares of apple, crushed peanuts and low-fat mayonnaise - my mom’s favorite
Fresh fruit salad with yogurt
TIME FOR TRAVELING
It is difficult to eat healthily when traveling. Long trips are boring. If you’re tired, you don’t have the energy to make healthy choices. Fast-food outlets are numerous and their selection poor. Remember, when traveling, as difficult as it may be, you should try to eat healthy 80% of the time. When you don’t have a choice, watch your portions.
“We’re already panicking. We’re driving to Florida and always eat the whole time.” - Heather and Sam, retirees.
This is a trouble spot. Long trips are boring. The only joy you have is to eat while you drive. To avoid eating at fast-food restaurants on the road, plan ahead and pack food, diet soda and water, vegetables soups, carrot and celery sticks, fruit, sandwiches, nuts, dried fruit, crackers and cheese in a cooler. Even healthy snacks should not be eaten to excess - if you’re continually nibbling, time yourself. Wait two hours between each snack.
Also every two hours, stop driving, get out of your car, and stretch and breathe the fresh air. Take a brisk ten-minute walk - you’ll feel so much better. Every four hours, take a twenty-minute walk and then stretch. This will give you the energy you need to carry on and increase your ability to concentrate.
“Thank you for your advice. I called the airline two days before my flight and they served me the low-calorie meal. It was delicious and included a light salad and fresh fruit. My food looked so much better than the greasy meals next to me.” - Dennis, a frequent flier.
Airplane meals are not particularly low in fat. Sometimes meat is smothered in gravy or the food is fried and battered. So plan ahead. All it takes is one phone call. Airlines are willing to comply with your request and will prepare special meals for you to enjoy. But they need forty-eight hours notice for special meals such as low-calorie, low-cholesterol, low-salt, vegetarian (this doesn’t mean low-fat), fruit platter, seafood platter, or kosher.
Remember to drink lots of water - one glass every hour. A recent study shows that drinking a lot of fluids minimizes jet lag.
To lessen jetlag, when flying east on an overnight flight, sleep easier by eating high-carbohydrate (starchy or sugary) foods. On arrival have a protein-rich breakfast (eggs and sausage.) Protein foods stimulate release of brain transmitters that promote alertness and waking activities, while carbohydrates stimulate release of sleep-inducing neurotransmitters (such as serotonin).
Caffeine in coffee, tea or sodas can affect circadian clocks, depending on time of ingestion. Caffeine delays the body clock in the morning, but advances it in the evening. So, for an overnight eastward flight, avoid caffeine before and during the flight. On arrival, drinking coffee may advance the body clock. For westward travel, some experts recommend refraining from caffeine altogether.
In the past, food on cruise ships was notorious for its richness. Now you can choose healthy food plus fitness programs. As Roz, a seasoned “cruiser” noticed, “Cruise chips help you maintain your weight by offering you low-fat, tasty meals. Exercise is encouraged. You are given incentives, T-shirts of dollars, if you attend regular physical activities, such as aerobics classes.”
I modeled on a cruise ship and had an eating plan. Make healthy food choices and be active the entire trip. The last two days eat anything and everything and don’t work out. Funny enough, I felt much better and had more fun in the healthy phase.
BUSES AND TRAINS
How long is your journey? If the trip is to last a full day, do you know what food will be available? Buses stop at fast-food restaurants, so either pack food or make the best choice possible. With trains, there are choices but aren’t really delicious and can be expensive. Your best bet is to plan ahead and pack your food.
My clients often tell me they get constipated when they travel. “I didn’t ‘go’ for eight days.” Gavin said. Yes, it’s happened to you, too. Look at the section on fiber and you’ll likely see the problem. You don’t drink enough water, don’t move much, eat lower-fiber foods - less cereals, fruit and vegetables, and can’t find a washroom when you need one.
Your traveling priorities need to change. You are going to:
∗ keep a water bottle handy;
∗ walk a lot;
∗ have a bran-type cereal every morning. If the place you’re going to does not serve these types of cereals, pack it and take it with you. Sprinkle the cereal on yogurt and salads;
∗ be sure to have fruit in your room, in your car, and on the bus and train, and;
∗ order a salad, vegetable soup or steamed vegetables every lunch and dinner.
HEALTHY HOLIDAYS CHECKLIST
∗ Hunger - eat only when hungry, waiting at least two hours between nibbles
∗ One - limit yourself to one serving; no second helpings
∗ Low-fat - choose low-fat ingredients and recipes for your favorite holiday dishes
∗ Indulge - in extra fruits and vegetables; reach for five to ten a day
∗ Desserts - satisfy your sweet tooth with half a portion of a sensational dessert
∗ Alcohol - limit by alternating alcohol with water, tomato juice, or diet soda
∗ Year’s goal - set your resolution to continue your active, healthy lifestyle
Carla: “How do you not gain ten pounds in the holiday season?”
Maye: “There are so many parties, so be choosy. Don’t eat everything in sight. If you host the party, don’t have nuts around to snack on - they’re irresistible. Rather, prepare foods that are lower in fat, such as raw vegetables with a salsa or yogurt dip, popcorn or pretzels.”