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Eating Out: Good for the Tastebuds, Bad for the Waistline

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Studies are confirming what you already knew. "Check, please" are two of the most fattening words in the English language. The more often you eat food prepared away from home, the more calories you consume, the less healthful the meals, and the heavier you become.

We're Eating Out Too Often

Once upon a time, overdoing it when eating away from home did not present much of a problem, because dining out was a rare event. Now, many people eat out or buy prepared food on a daily basis.

Eating out was once reserved for special events. As a result, many of us still view of eating out as an opportunity to splurge. But the more we eat out and splurge, the more those calories add up.

Portion Sizes Play a Role

Indeed, restaurant portions are even bigger than they were in the days when Mom wore a corsage to her Mother's Day meal at the local upscale family restaurant. Both plate size and portion size have steadily increased .

It is often said that restaurants are to blame for the ever larger portions and should shoulder some of the responsibility for helping people eat less, perhaps by serving smaller servings for less money. However, consumers equate volume with value, which makes it difficult for competitive restaurants to serve less food.

Tips for the Restaurant-goer

So what's a calorie-conscious restaurant diner to do? After all, it is not easy for many people to stop eating if they are full but there's still food left on the plate.

Some tips for dining out include:

  • Eat an appetizer and split an entree and desert with your dining partner—or skip the appetizer or desert altogether.
  • Ask if smaller portions are available.
  • Ask if healthy substitutions are available.
  • Before you begin eating, set aside a portion of your food to take home in a doggy bag. Don't wait to see what's left over.
  • Make a conscious effort not to overeat when dining with others. People eat more when eating with other people.
  • Ask for butter, cream cheese, dressings, sauces, and gravies to be served on the side, so you can control how much you use.

RESOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

US Department of Agriculture
http://www.usda.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.ca

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

References:

Bowman SA, Vinyard BT. Fast food consumption of US adults: impact on energy and nutrient intakes and overweight status. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23:163-168.

Condrasky M, Ledikwe JH, Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Chefs’ opinions of restaurant portion sizes. Obesity. 2007;15:2086-2094.

McCrory MA, Fuss PJ, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary determinants of energy intake and weight regulation in healthy adults. Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:276S-279S.

Ordering your meal. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/DiningOut/Ordering-Your-Meal_UCM_301471_Article.jsp. Updated May 21, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2013.



Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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