Dining out in spring
You can eat out and lose weight. Start with this list of tips to help you navigate the menu options at your favourite restaurants or fast food outlets.
1. Set yourself a budget
Determine how much you’re willing to eat, and how many SmartPoints® you’re willing to spend, before you look at the menu. That way you’ll be less likely to become overwhelmed or persuaded when you’re presented with all the options on offer at the restaurant. Just remember that it’s okay to be flexible, too –you can loosen up a bit on special occasions, and get back on track at the next meal.
2. Set yourself some guidelines
Similarly, decide on a set of guidelines before you go to a restaurant, and stick to them. For instance:
- Make a commitment to skip any all-inclusive fixed-price menu options if they’re offered and opt for the à la carte selections instead. It might not be as economical, but you’ll probably eat less and can choose what you actually want to eat.
- Take one piece of bread, then ask for the basket to be removed from the table.
3. Make special requests
Don’t be shy. You’re paying good money for the meal, so you’re entitled to make special requests or ask for slight modifications. Why not say:
- Can I please have that without the butter? Grilled? With the sauce on the side?
- I’d like mixed greens instead of fries with my hamburger, please.
4. Practise portion control
Some restaurant portions can be two, three, even four times the ‘normal’ size – especially super-sized fast-food and chain-restaurant meals. Keep your portions in check with this approach:
- Order an entrée-sized main with a side of vegies or salad.
- Create your own scaled-down meal from a couple of appetisers and/or side dishes.
- Don’t be tempted by the up- or super-sizing deals that fast-food restaurants often offer. It might seem like value for money but can involve spending many more extra SmartPoints than you’ve bargained for.
5. Don't starve yourself all day
If you don’t eat all day, you could end up eating even more on your night out. Eat a satisfying snack (like an apple or some vegie sticks with your favourite dip) before you go out so you’re not famished by the time you get there.
6. Watch your dressings and toppings
Salad bars and garden salads grace menus across the country. But the extra toppings that are sometimes available can sabotage your seemingly health-conscious salad choice. Remember to:
- Go easy on the croutons, grated cheese and fried bacon bits.
- Swap creamy dressings for small amounts of low-fat or fat-free dressings on the side.
7. Go easy on the alcohol
A drink with dinner is fine, but too many may wreak havoc with your resolve to stay on track. Not only do alcoholic drinks come with their share of SmartPoints, alcohol also tends to lower inhibitions in regard to eating. But you can keep your appetite under control if you:
- Alternate alcoholic beverages with soda water, mineral water or sparkling water.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.
8. Don't feel the need to clean the plate
You paid for this meal so you have to eat every single morsel, right? Wrong. If you’re presented with a large plate of food, or find that your hunger’s satisfied when you’re only halfway through a meal:
- Stop after you’ve eaten that half, and ask to take the rest home for lunch tomorrow.
- Push your plate away as soon as you feel full.
- Remember to eat slowly, keeping in mind that it takes 20 minutes after you swallow a mouthful for your body to ‘register it’.