A woman sits at a restaurant studying the menu with a furrowed brow. She has begun an exercise routine and knows that her frequent meals out could slow her weight loss results if she isn’t careful. When the waiter comes she is still deep in thought over what to order. “What can I get for you?” he asks with a smile. She looks up and frowns, no closer to arriving at a decision. On a whim, self-conscious, she blurts out, “I’m trying to eat healthy but I have no idea what to order. What do you think I should try?”
The young waiter looks startled but quickly rattles off his idea of a healthy meal. “The eggplant and roasted pepper pasta is filled with vegetables. You could try that, with a salad.”
The woman smiles. Yes, eggplant does sound great. A salad alone just doesn’t do it for me. So she orders the veggie pasta with a side salad and a diet soda, then sits back to enjoy a slice or two of bread.
200 grams of carbohydrate and 1,450 calories later, she’s just derailed her entire week of workouts, but leaves feeling satiated and satisfied with her choices. Does that sound like a well-educated, empowered consumer? Little does she know, her eggplant was pan-fried in oil, the same oil her pasta was coated with. Everyone has their idea of what it means to be healthy, to eat healthfully. But, who’s right? Who can we actually trust?
Before I entered the fitness world, during my high school years primarily, I consistently worked in restaurants. I’ll spare you the horror stories (unless of course, you ask!). I will tell you that we used to get in an entire log (about 20 pounds or so) of 75/25 red meat that was simply sliced up and tossed onto a greasy flat-top grill, to simmer in it’s own fat…yikes! If anything is going to cause cancer, that meat would have my vote. On top of the grill cleaned nightly with harsh, skin-deteriorating chemicals. I know, I know…I said I would spare you! I don’t know the answers, but I can, however, promise you that the same virtually fat free, hormone free, chicken breast you can cook at home can and will often contain in excess of 15 grams of fatty tissue. Why? Flavor, of course! Why spend more money on a better quality piece of meat that may not taste as good? Fortunately, we have some great restaurants around here…but who actually knows what goes on behind the scenes?
It is said that 80% of your weight loss results are derived from diet, and the remaining 20% from exercise—so you can see how important it is for you to stick with a healthy eating plan.
Now that we are all horrified on a harmless Tuesdaymorning, let’s forget the scary stuff for a minute and use the following quick tips as your guide to eating out right, when you need to:
Appetizers are a great way to start out a leisurely meal, but can also derail your good intentions with a quickness.
- Anything fried. Fried foods are a favorite, but will do damage that even the most intense workout won’t undo.
- Creamy dips. These are filled with fat and usually come with something fried to dip in it.
- Bread. It comes smothered in cheese or seeped in butter, and even when it’s plain it fills you up with more carbohydrates than your body needs.
- Green salad. Ask for very light dressing and no croutons.
- Antipasto. A plate of thinly sliced meats, olives and cheese will start you off with some protein.
- Lettuce wraps. These are delicious, protein-filled and low in carbs.
Calories in drinks are sneaky because they don’t fill you up. This means that you end up taking in far more calories than you bargained for.
- Regular or diet soda. On one hand you’re drinking corn syrup through a straw, on the other you’re drinking chemicals that cause you to crave sweets. It’s a no win situation.
- Sweet cocktails. Many restaurants are advertising sweet cocktails –resist the urge. Sugar plus alcohol equals loads of unneeded calories.
- Sweetened tea. You may feel righteous for ordering iced tea, but if it’s sweetened then you may as well be drinking fully loaded soda.
- Water. Don’t laugh! Water is the best beverage of all.
- Unsweetened iced tea. Don’t ruin it by adding that packet of sugar. Learn to enjoy the natural sweetness to the tea.
- Red wine. Stick to one glass, and drink responsibly.
This is where the real damage is done. When you order something carb-loaded you leave the restaurant feeling heavy and lethargic—you may not even realize this until you start eating better and experience the light, energetic way you’ll feel after eating a healthy meal.
- Pasta. I don’t care if it comes with red sauce or white sauce, meat or veggies.
- Pizza. Another dish that has far more carbohydrates than you need. If you’re craving the pizza toppings then simply order those over a salad.
- Burgers. If you really want a burger then ditch the bun and the fries, and have your patty wrapped in lettuce. And maybe ask the waiter if it came from a long, tube-like log of nasty – I wasn’t kidding!
- Lean meats with vegetables. Fish, steak, chicken, take your pick and pair it with green vegetables. Always, always ask how it’s prepared. Advocate!
- Salad with protein. Ask for very light dressing and make sure you have a nice piece of protein on it.
- Soup and salad. Stick with broth based soups that contain protein and pass on the breadsticks.
You’re so close to your goals. you just may not realize it yet. So now ask yourself…is eating out worth it? If you do your homework, you can come to that determination well before you get to the restaurant. Moral of the story, ask the right questions and you’ll be just fine.