Don’t Turn on AutoPilot When You Go Out To Eat

According to a recent USDA study, over 75% of people dine out at least once a week. Eating out at restaurants is fun, but it can be bad for your diet if you fail to do one simple thing:  pay attention.  As portion sizes get bigger and our diets become more substantial, it is easy to turn on autopilot when you smell the intoxicating aroma drifting from the kitchen.

The writer is not impervious to the pitfalls of going out to eat.  In a recent outing with a friend at an Italian chain restaurant, we turned on autopilot and regretted it later.  Per the waiter’s suggestion, we shared one appetizer, two entrees and one dessert.  We didn’t think much about calories because we we were sharing.  It seemed like a good excuse to turn on auto-pilot.

We even left half of the massive plate of pasta.

Calorie counting after the meal, we discovered we had each consumed over 3,000 calories and we did not come close to finishing the meal!  We had eaten our entire calorie allowance for the day and then some!  In truth, it was delicious, but we could easily have had just as much fun and felt less overstuffed when we left the restaurant if we had kept our brains engaged instead of going on autopilot.

Even if you are trying to eat healthy it is so easy to forget once making your order.  Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when going out to eat:

– Take half your meal home.  Plan ahead, before your food arrives at the table ask for a to-go box; save half of your meal for later before you even start eating it. Now, you have two delicious meals for the price of one.

– No Bread. Restaurants are always trying to fill you up with empty calories even before your appetizers arrive. Avoid these pre-meal foods by keeping them on the other side of the table or asking the waiter to not bring it at all.

– Ask Questions. The server should know the menu back and forth. Don’t shy away from asking questions, they could be the difference of 1,000 calories!

– Smart Salads. Salads may seem like a healthy meal but drenching it in high fat dressings will quickly make it unhealthy. Ask for the dressing on the side or better yet try some squeezed lemon or vinegar and oil.

– Keywords. These buzz words should automatically have you looking for an alternative dish – fried, creamed, buttered, and dip.

– Eat Slowly.  Take your time and enjoy your meal. Let your body have time to break down your foods before you finish.

– Always Eat a Vegetable. No, French fries don’t count! Start with the lowest calorie item first and work your way up. You’ll be getting full before you get to your entrée.

Dieting isn’t always choosing the item that sounds healthy. You can be deceived into thinking you’re eating healthier that isn’t. You must go in with a plan and focus on how you’re going to feel at the end of the meal.  Before you order, it SEEMS like you’re not going to be happy without that fried mozzarella, but in the end, the healthier bruschetta will taste just as wonderful and you’ll feel so much better about yourself at the end of the meal.

Have any more tips when going out to eat? Let us know in the comments section below.

Kate Miller
Kate Miller

Kate Miller, mom of 5, is on a mission to stay fit and healthy. As HealthyWage's Community Manager, she's fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring success stories day after day. In 2012, Kate lost 50 pounds and documented most of her journey right here on the HealthyWage blog. Since then, she's had to learn the subtle intricacies of staying on track by mastering the daily ebb and flow (and parties and holidays and periods of extreme laziness) of life.

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