By Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD
Celebrity dietitian and CEO
Going out to dinner tonight?
You’ve got plenty of company. On average Americans eat out about five times a week, according to the National Restaurant Association, and whether you dine out for business or pleasure one thing is clear: dining out with any regularity makes it easy to gain weight. That’s because a restaurant meal isn’t like one you’d eat at home. Add up the calories from a few cocktails, a slice or two of bread with butter, an entrée-size appetizer, a jumbo-size main course and dessert, and you’ve possibly exceeded your calorie quota for an entire day. Even routine of grab-and go meals can take their toll, however. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every meal eaten away from home tacks on another 135 calories each day. Eat out five times a week and you could find yourself 10 pounds heavier at the end of the year – and shopping for a larger wardrobe.
Plenty of slim people dine out often, travel and go to parties – proof that you don’t have to be a die-hard dieter to be at a healthy weight. As a registered dietitian who specializes in weight loss I know that dieting isn’t a sprint but a marathon. I developed the F-Factor diet especially for people who work hard, play hard, drink, travel, and eat out all the time. Many of my clients are “movers and shakers” who would never sit home with a frozen dinner hoping to lose weight. They’re always on the run and dining at places like Nobu and Cipriani. So instead of telling them to dine out less what I do is show them how make good eating a normal part of their lifestyle.
It’s little wonder people associate “diet” with hunger and deprivation, since most weight loss diets dictate eating less. That was the case during the low-carb dieting craze when Americans were led to believe that to lose weight they had to give up carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and rice. Really? Why is it that in Italy, where in some regions many people eat pasta every day, weight isn’t a problem? The answer lies in the way Italians include pasta in their meals. In Italy, pasta is never a main course, just a small first course (primo piatto), whereas here in the U.S. we treat it as a main course that can pack upwards of 1,000 calories – nearly half your total calories for the day. Rather than give up pasta, just order it the way Italians do as an appetizer portion and then have a delicious entrée of grilled fish or meat with a generous side of vegetables. Simple!
Nothing on a menu is taboo. If you dine out often there are times when you want to indulge and I say go right ahead. Why deny yourself if on most days your food choices are on the lighter side? Fortunately, it’s never been easier to find lighter fare at all types of restaurants. Today’s chefs are conscious about health and many are inspired by culinary movements like slow cooking and farm-to-table that promote healthier cooking techniques and ultra-fresh, high quality ingredients from local growers. The lucky upshot is that vegetables are now being served in far greater variety. Gone are the days of boring mashed potatoes, blanched carrots, and boiled broccoli; veggies are receiving gourmet treatment – prepared in such exciting, delicious ways that my clients enjoy eating lighter meals made with plenty of waist-friendly vegetables.
I am often asked whether losing weight requires cutting out alcohol. My answer is absolutely not because alcohol needn’t cause weight gain. If social drinking is part of your lifestyle, abstaining from alcohol can set your diet back far more than a glass of wine ever could. How many times have you been out to dinner with someone who announces, “I’m not drinking, I’m on a diet!” and then proceeds to soak her bread in olive oil and polish off a Caprese salad? A glass of wine only has 90 calories, while bread soaked in olive oil can top 360 calories and 3-4 slices of fresh whole-milk mozzarella has 400 calories or more. This goes to show that drinking and dieting can go together – but you have to order wisely and avoid drinks loaded with unnecessary calories. Wine and spirits are your least caloric choices at about 90 calories per drink, but if a mixed drink is more your style lighten it up by ordering a less-caloric mixer. Why sip a drink mixed with 90-calorie tonic when you can go really low with club soda, diet soda or a splash of juice? Whatever you do, skip sugary cocktails like margaritas because each one can top 500 calories. Have two and well, you get the picture.
People love the F-Factor diet because it allows them to dine out and enjoy life without sabotaging their waistline. Change your life without changing your lifestyle and it is possible to lose weight quickly and for good. I tell my clients that they should aim to eat well 90% of the time, which leaves 10% for indulgent days. Figure there are 365 days a year and 10% of that gives you 36.5 days when you don’t have to eat perfectly well. That’s a lot of leeway, all while giving you a sustainable diet with a really great payoff. Yes, eating and living the F-Factor way will have you looking trimmer and better than ever. You’ll also feel healthier, more confident, sexier, and wake each morning full of energy and ready to live your life to its absolute fullest.
Tanya’s Tips for Dining Out
Go online and look at menus to see what looks healthy and decide your order. By taking the guesswork out of what to eat it’s easy to make better choices.
Be the first to order
You may be tempted to go with the crowd when everyone’s ordering a big meal. Put your lighter meal order in first and you’ll stick to it.
Scan the menu and look for cues that a dish is high in calories, such as creamy, fried, breaded, and barbequed. Words that indicate a dish may be lighter include, grilled, steamed, poached and broiled.
Have an appetizer
Skip the breadbasket and start with a salad or broth-based soup. You won’t be as hungry when you meal comes and possibly eat less of it.
Restaurant portions can be double, even triple size. Let your eyes guide you on how much is a single portion. Figure that a serving of meat would fit into the palm of your hand and that a portion of pasta is about the size of your fist.
Edit your order
If your dish comes with a high calorie side like French fries, ask your waiter to swap it for something healthier like a side order of vegetables. Automatically eat less of a sauce or salad dressing by ordering it served on the side.
Wine and spirits have about 90 calories per drink, while a sugary mixed cocktail can have four times as much. Switch from 90-calorie tonic to a low-cal mixer, such as diet soda, club soda or a splash of juice.
Share a dessert
Indulge in any sweet you like by practicing the three-bite rule. Take your time and savor each mouthful – by slowing down even a little dessert will seem like a lot.