Insider Tips on Eating Out
By: Lisa Cooper, MS, RD, LD/N
In this fast-paced day and age, it’s easy to fall into a habit of dining out on a regular basis. Unfortunately, one of the hardest times to control portions is when eating away from home.
Research shows restaurant portion sizes have quadrupled since the 1950s, and consumers tend to select high-calorie options. That’s a problem because dining out is growing more popular in the U.S. In fact, more than half of money budgeted for food is spent on eating out. That trend is only expected to continue in 2018 as car delivery services make it even easier to access restaurant meals.
The Cost of Convenience
With the advent of dollar menus and combo meals, consumers can now buy large portions of high-calorie items for low cost. These low-cost options can pack on more than half a days-worth of calories in one meal (easily 1000 calories or more). Not surprising, eating out is correlated with obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, eating away from home four times a week can add an additional eight pounds per year — enough to push most Americans into an unhealthy weight category.
Curbing Bad Habits
The good news is you can control portions and reduce calories by creating a plan and sticking to it. Here are some tips:
- Select restaurants that offer calorie-controlled menu options ( less than 500 calories) and/or smaller portion sizes
- Minimize the size of your entrée:
- Order the single hamburger or the smallest steak
- Ask for a lunch sized portion
- Select an appetizer as your entrée
- Request a senior portion, which is usually smaller in size
- Eat half of your entrée. Split the entrée with a friend, or place half in a takeaway box.
- Pay attention to the calories on the menu. Keep in mind 2000 calories is an average daily intake.
- Order a-la-carte. Try soup and a side to keep portions in check.
- Cut pizza slices in half. Eat two mini-slices instead of two large slices.
- Monitor fullness. Even when feeling full, it is not uncommon to continue eating. Have the server take the plate away or cover your food with a napkin.
- Use your hand as a portion control guide to estimate portions.
No one wants to bust out measuring cups at a restaurant. Click here for a quick and easy guide to using your hand for portion sizes.
About the Author
Lisa Cooper is a dietitian specializing in prevention and wellness at Orlando Health. She is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University and a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University.