Eating out can be a dieter’s worst nightmare. But there are occasions, particularly when you must regularly attend business lunches or take clients to dinner, that eating out becomes a necessity and not an option. This is when you have to get strategic about your meal planning, and that includes learning the basics about calorie values, portions, and how to access online nutritional facts from the restaurants you will be dining at. You can still lose weight while dining out; it just takes a little prep-work.
As a general rule, a portion of anything should be no larger than your fist. That is technically what your meal size should be in order to meet your body’s needs without over-eating. But not all foods are the same, and when you’re dieting, that variation in calorie-density can make a huge difference.
For instance, a 4-ounce, skinless chicken breast contains around 140 calories (baked, roasted or broiled), but portion sizes matter. Do you know how big a 4 oz. chicken breast is? What about sauces? How many calories do you think is in a rich cream sauce, compared to a flavorful tomato sauce? Bread can also sneak a load of unwanted calories in, too, because many restaurants grease the bread before they throw it on the grill to lightly toast it for your sandwich. So, unless you request that there’s no oil on your bread, that “healthy” grilled chicken breast sandwich just added an extra 100 calories for no reason at all.
What you should be doing at home is weighing your food on your own, just for your own general knowledge. It is important to know how much a serving of a particular food is, so that you can make better choices overall. Get a food scale (they’re not that expensive), and the next time you make pasta, weigh out a 2 oz. serving size and familiarize yourself with what a single serving looks like (it will be approximately 1 cup cooked, on average). Do the same for other common restaurant foods, like chicken breasts, hamburger patties, and deli meats (pastrami, ham, etc.) and French fries. This way, when you go out, you will know exactly how a serving should look like, and if the restaurant serves too large of a portion, you can gauge how much to put in that take-home box and how much to actually eat.
Of course, with fried foods like French fries – they probably shouldn’t be on your diet menu anyway. But, if you’ve really got to have them or any other restaurant food, the most helpful resource you have when it comes to staying on track for losing weight is the internet, where you can look up a food’s online nutritional facts. Once you have a good idea of what an actual portion size is supposed to look like, those nutritional values become a lot more practical, and you can even create your own personal “cheat sheet” to keep with you. It shouldn’t just include meat, bread, pasta and side dishes, either; you need to know which condiments have the most calories (like mayonnaise or oil-based spreads or sauces), and what your zero or low calorie options are (mustards, salsa, low-sugar ketchup, etc.).
When you learn about familiarize yourself with online nutritional facts and commit to learning about food values, calories, and portion sizes, it’s really not that hard to lose weight while dining out. It’s simply about gaining knowledge about ingredients, and setting aside a portion for the “to-go” box before you dig in.
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