5 Tips to Avoid Overeating At A Restaurant
There’s no denying that it’s much easier to stick to a healthy diet when preparing your own meals. But there’s no reason why a healthy lifestyle can’t accommodate the occasional restaurant outing as well. There are just a few things we need to remember about restaurants to make them work for us and not against us.
Restaurant are in the flavor business, NOT the nutrition business.
The overwhelming majority of restaurants drive customers back for more by adding excess fat, salt, and/or sugar. These ingredients carry a high ratio of calories to nutrients. Furthermore, foods in their whole natural “balanced” form start to seem way less exciting when super-flavored restaurant food is our standard.
Beyond the exaggerated flavor of restaurant food, the environment tends to overstimulate our senses. Aromas, enticing imagery, and everything you encounter at a restaurant is magnified by design to offer an experience beyond nourishment. All this stimulation makes it hard to keep in mind that our food decisions have a real, tangible impact on our health.
Restaurant portions are too large.
Calories are not a good measure of nutritional quality but they are a reliable measure of quantity. A 2016 study of 123 restaurants found that the average restaurant meal packed more than 1200 calories, which is well over the average need per meal for adult men and women. Another study found that plate size affects the amount we consume but it does not affect our satisfaction. This means that large restaurant entree plates made to impress will lead to more consumption but smaller plates will do just as well to satisfy.
Extras add up.
Restaurant meals are accompanied by lots of “extras” that are not usually a part of home cooked meals. Warm bread, refreshing cocktails, and tall beverage glasses refilled by an attentive staff can tack the calories onto an already robust feast.
Once we know what we are dealing with, we can build a winning strategy to help us counteract these influences. We defined a health supporting diet as one that packs nutrients within an appropriate calorie range so our restaurant game plan should work towards this end. Keep reading for tips and a handy cheat sheet!
Tips to Help You Avoid Overeating at a Restaurant
- Start with a tall glass of water. This will help settle your hunger before the tempting, heavy menu items have a chance to rope you in.
- Count your starches. Aim for a max of three starchy servings at the meal. Choose between bread, cocktails, side starches like rice and potato, and dessert instead of going for all of them.
- Keep it lean. A lean cut of meat in a relatively moderate portion size can save you a significant amount of calories and saturated fat. It will also keep you feeling lighter on your feet for the rest of the evening. Ask your waiter if you need help finding the lean options.
- Share the love. Ask for small sharing plates with your entree and serve yourself on those. This can help deactivate the autopilot mode that has us finishing our oversized plates!
- Don’t go in starving. Arriving at the restaurant with your hunger in check puts you in a position to order what you want and pass on what you don’t. Hungry customers tend to over-order.
Download this handy cheat sheet to keep with you next time you go out to eat.
The next time you go out to eat, try these tips! Have you had any success with these? Let us know in the comments!