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Dining out while dieting

Dining out while dieting

For those of you that have been following my weight loss journey and struggles, my weight loss has slowed as I have not stayed on my weight loss plan faithfully with a lot of summer parties and life events. I am down almost 50 pounds, which for me is something I have never been able to achieve before. The furthest thing from my mind when going out of town recently was to pack my meal supplements. However, even with all the events I’ve either maintained or lost a half pound for each week. We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary at a nice steakhouse and it got me thinking about how much we eat out.

Patricia Ligon, manager of the Advocate Weight Management Program, and I were discussing that topic and she shared some facts she found about American’s eating habits. I just want to share a few.

  • In a 2012 study, 52 percent of Americans believed doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy.
  • Americans consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food.
  • Over 10 billion donuts are consumed in the US every year.
  • 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car.
  • Americans spend 10 percent of their disposable income on fast food every year.

After looking at the statistics, I realized I’ve made some real changes. I no longer eat donuts, even though I have to drive by the Krispy Kreme manufacturing plant every day. The surprising thing is I don’t crave sweets. I no longer eat in the car and I have cut down on the packaged goods and try to eat fresh foods. I have rarely been in a fast food restaurant in the last five months except for a salad. I am on the Advocate Weight Management Plan by eating some meal replacements along with food, but that always doesn’t fit with all that is going on in my life and on weekends we’re out of town. So, it proves I am not on a diet. I am now on a healthier eating plan. I’m not perfect on it, but I do make better choices most of the time. I am so much more aware of what and how much I am eating since I started this plan and it has become a part of how I live each day. Now I eat to live, not live to eat.

So one question I get often is, “How do you eat out at restaurants and still stay on track with what you are supposed to be eating?” It’s difficult because I have to guess at the portions and how it was prepared. It also isn’t easy when my husband is eating a large juicy burger with all the trimmings and an ice cold beer.

I’ve come up with a few things I do to still eat out with friends and family:

  1. Plan ahead by looking at the menu on the restaurant’s website. I have altered where we are going to dinner based on their menus and if there was anything that I could eat to fit my current eating plan. Almost everyone has the menus and even nutritional values online now.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask how something is prepared. If it’s sautéed in butter it’s ok to ask for them to grill it instead. If it has a sauce on it, ask for it on the side. I sometimes ask for spices on seafood. Tilapia is rather bland so I ask them to blacken it or use Cajun spices.
  3. If a meal comes with soup or salad, I go with the salad and ask for no dressing. Bring your own nonfat or low fat dressing in a little container so it’s already measured. If you do get their dressing “on the side” just dip your fork instead of pouring it on the salad. Ask them to not put croutons on the salad. Or, if the salad had blue cheese or other cheeses in it, I ask them to remove that as well. Anywhere you can save carbs and fat is a big help. If I want the soup, I’ll order something with a broth like a chicken noodle and just eat the broth even though I would love the shrimp bisque that was probably rich with cream.
  4. Bread is my downfall so as soon as my husband chooses what he wants, we ask them to remove the bread basket or we keep it out of my reach.
  5. A lot of times entrees come with a protein, vegetable and a starch like potato or rice. I always ask them to substitute the starch for another vegetable like broccoli, green beans, roasted root veggies.
  6. Cut your portion in half immediately when served. Portions are large in restaurants. I ask for a “to-go” box right away so it gets out of sight and I’m not tempted to overeat. A lot of restaurants now serve light portions which are maybe 4-5 oz which is perfect for the plan I am on.
  7. Alcohol adds a lot of calories. Personally, I do miss my margaritas now and then. While I am in this reducing phase I try to stick to iced tea, coffee or diet soda. I did make an exception when we went out of town for our anniversary-after all, 40 years is a big deal-but now I’m right back on the plan.
  8. Taking a sip of water periodically while eating will fill you up faster.
  9. Dessert-it’s really tempting sometimes. My husband will get his dessert to go so he can enjoy it at home and I am not tempted. Or, if I absolutely have to indulge, I just take one or two bites. With those little bites, it satisfies the craving and I don’t feel deprived while I savor each bite. Honestly, I rarely have room at the end of a meal now.
  10. For those with a smartphone – there are numerous apps you can download that give you the calorie counts for popular restaurants. If I’m not sure, I look it up.

Bottom line, I am sure that has contributed to the slowing of my weight loss, so it’s best to eat at home as often as possible so you can control the sodium, fat and portion size. Our busy lives, however, don’t always allow us to be home to cook meals or to even plan ahead. When caught unprepared and have to eat out, using these guidelines help me to maintain and not get out of control with my eating. I hope these help you and would love to hear any other tips.

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  1. Great post Deb, I am following a different plan, but try to eat mostly fresh whole foods. Amazing how much garbage is in the processed stuff! Anyway, I really like number 6 and will try that the next time we eat out somewhere. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great tips Debi, I think I have done every one of them since starting on the Advocate Weight Management Program. Another tip I would add, I have found ordering tacos is an easy way to stay on plan, just don’t eat the tortillas and you have a nice taco salad. Add the salsa but skip the sour cream. One more month and I will have sustained my current weight for an entire year! I am enjoying following your journey. Keep up the good work!

    • Debi Jordan

      Thanks for the additional tip to ordering out. Congratulations on maintaining your loss for almost a year-what an accomplishment! I tell people I’m on a weight management program with meal replacements and the first thing they say is, you’ll probably gain it back as you aren’t learning how to eat. The supplements are there of course to get down to a normal weight quicker. I like just worrying about one meal out of the day. It makes it much easier to stay on plan. I have learned so much as I need to be creative for that one meal to keep it interesting and not too redundant. So I’m learning new cooking methods, spices and new foods. I love the fact that after we reach goal we have the support to maintain. I appreciate your support.

  3. Congrats Deb-great tips since we like to eat out a lot. You sure have a lot of willpower-I have a hard time saying no to the bread…

    • Debi Jordan

      It is challenging. If I absolutely can’t say no then I use tip #9 for the desserts – 1-2 bites and then leave it alone. Thanks for all your support, Lisa.

  4. Great tips, Deb! They’re definitely working for you!

  5. Deb–your determination and perseverance are incredible! You are looking wonderful and inspiring many others that it can be done! Keep us all posted.

  6. Lisa Parro

    Great tips. Another concern is sodium; restaurants have no incentive to cut salt because salted food tastes better and makes you want to drink more. I always cringe when my restaurant companions reach for the salt before even tasting their food. If you ever check out a restaurant’s menu online, the sodium content is always through the roof.

  7. Kelly Jo Golson

    Way to go Deb! Thanks for sharing your great story with others.

  8. Debi, well done! You are an inspiration. You look fantastic. Great tips for eating out.

  9. Stay the course Deb! You are inspiring many people to do the same.

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About the Author

Debi Jordan
Debi Jordan

Debi Jordan, health enews contributor, is senior account rep for the Advocate Health Care Media Center. She is sharing her weight loss journey.