With summer upon us (and bikini season in full swing), it’s time to put an extra focus on your diet to help you shed unwanted pounds, especially when you eat out. It’s been shown that eating out tends to pack on the pounds more than home cooked meals since portion sizes are larger and restaurant foods tend to be higher in calories. Recent data suggests that the recession has not caused us to eat out less, but to eat out cheaper with more fast food and empty calories, shifting the average diet quality from fair to poor.
Actually with a little planning, eating out healthy can be very simple. But only when you understand that most restaurant prepared meals are loaded with way too many cheap calories, most of which are coming from unhealthy fats and carbohydrates.
With that in mind, it’s important to first understand some unfortunate nutritional facts about many restaurants and commercially prepared foods. Many restaurant recipes are unnecessarily high in calories from sugar, starchy carbohydrates and fat. Just follow the money. These are cheap ways to add flavor to food. But these are also the causes of blood sugar spikes that cause cells to store fat rather than burn stored fat for energy.
Many meals are also low in high-quality, low-fat protein. You can always find an amazingly flavorful rib eye steak, but they typically contain far more calories from fat than protein. Since protein is much more expensive than processed carbohydrates, many restaurants simply skimp on low-fat protein. Choose the protein in a meal first and design your meal around it.
Below is our top Eating-Out Survival Guide to help you stabilize blood sugar when eating out.
Eating-Out Survival Guide
- Avoid high calorie appetizers. Order a salad instead.
- Start your meal with a large, fresh green salad with dressing served on the side or a Caesar salad that is lightly dressed.
- If you are drinking an alcoholic beverage such as a glass of wine or a light beer, drink it with your meal for better blood sugar control. Alcoholic beverages or sugary soft drinks before your meal can easily spike blood sugar and fill you with empty calories.
- Skip the bread and rolls. Lack of will power and hunger can tempt you to munch down several hundred calories of bread and butter or chips and salsa before your meal even arrives. Better yet, have it removed from your table to avoid unnecessary starchy carbohydrates completely.
- Look for the “smaller portions” or reduced calorie versions of meals to control portion size.
- Choose low-fat, grilled protein such as seafood, chicken or lean beef.
- Order a large serving of steamed or grilled vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, green beans, an artichoke or mixed vegetables. Request that they are not cooked with (or covered in) high-fat sauces.
- If ordering a large meal, split it with a friend or take home half for the next days meal.
- Caesar Salad with light dressing
- Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon or Rotisserie Chicken
- Steamed Asparagus
- Glass of Red Wine
So with a little knowledge and self-control, you can still eat out and continue to burn fat faster to find your beach body in no time. When your goal is to shed the weight and still enjoy restaurant dining or even fast food, you have choices to make. Choose your meals wisely to control blood sugar and you’ll stay in your fat burning zone.
*Joyce Daoust is a Certified Nutritionist, Balance Bar® spokesperson and national best-selling co-author of THE FORMULA, A Personalized 40-30-30 Weight Loss Program