Eating Out

I recently vacationed in Florida for spring break. We had a wonderful time and were very active outdoors almost every single day. And yet, I still gained weight. As I mentioned before, this is due to eating out.

Why is eating out in restaurants so treacherous?

When you eat out, you give up most of the control over your food choices. Sure, you can order a salad, but you can't make your own dressing with only the ingredients you choose. You can order dressings and sauces on the side, but you still don't know exactly what is in them. And for the most part when we eat out, we are looking for a relaxing and enjoyable social experience. We don't want to have to worry about calories and points and blocks. So we usually order and eat what we feel like, not what our bodies actually need.

Restaurants prepare food SOLELY with the taste of the dish in mind. The goal is not to make the most nutritious meal, it is to make the most delicious meal. In other words, the food will often contain WAY more salt, seasonings, fat (often in the form of trans-fats), and whatever flavorings or chemicals they think will taste best. Whatever gets your mouth watering will go into the food.

Portion sizes are another problem with eating out. At home, you can measure your servings carefully to know that you are getting exactly what your body needs. At a restaurant, you will probably be served at least twice as much as you need. Possibly even more! I often choose to cut my meal in half at the start, eat half (or even less!) and bring the other half home. If you are like me and hate wasting food, this is one way to eat less and reduce the waste.

When we eat out, we are usually more distracted. There may be a lot of noise, activity, socializing, maybe even drinking of alcohol going on. (Another source of empty calories associated with eating out!) When you eat in a distracted state, you are much more likely to eat past a feeling of fullness. A plate stacked with french fries, fried calamari, or tortilla chips might gradually disappear while you chat away, not even realizing how many you have consumed.

Restaurants are often expensive. I don't know about you, but I feel like I want to get my money's worth. This can also contribute to consuming more food, more beverage (with free refills) and more of those little freebies like the bread basket and the bowl of chips. After all, we're paying for it! This attitude can add up to mucho extra calories.

I don't tend to eat out very frequently, so when I do, I usually choose something that I can't or won't make at home. In particular, I love a great cheeseburger. I ate several in Florida. And I did not skip the french fries, either. Even though I love a good salad, I rarely order a salad when I am out. I just figure that I can make myself a better salad at home. I don't own a deep fryer (Thank God!) so I only eat fries when I am out. This tendency to go for the high calorie foods only happens to me in a restaurant.

Of course, it is possible to find restaurants which have a better philosophy. There are places which emphasize local produce, organic foods, and natural stuff. This does not mean low calorie, however! An organic dessert may be healthier in some ways but it is still full of sugar! (Or possibly honey, which has just as many calories.)

Bottom line? My advice is to eat out less. Entertain your friends at home by serving them a delicious, healthy meal. Or socialize in other settings, like the gym, or while you are jogging, walking the dog, or playing tennis. Invite your friends to join you at the pool, the park, or the museum. Every social interaction does not need to revolve around food! (Believe it or not!) You and your friends will all be healthier for it.