Restaurant Tips and Tricks
By: Debi Silber, MS, RD, WHC The Mojo Coach®
While traveling often involves a change in our usual eating and exercise routine, one of the greatest reasons why we put on “travel pounds” is due to how we’re ordering our food and what we’re eating at different restaurants while away. Is there a simple way to navigate a restaurant menu? All it takes is a little education and as usual…a plan.
Let’s start with a short lesson in menu reading. Certain words indicate a food choice is healthy and lean while other words indicate a food is loaded in fat, sugar and calories. What are some healthy menu words to look for when menu reading? Terms like baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, roasted, seasoned, poached, seared and red sauce usually imply that the food is cooked with less fat. While these foods may still contain added fat in the form of oil, butter and cream there is at least the potential for a leaner entrée when ordering foods with these descriptions. So if those are some of the words that indicate a leaner choice, what would be some menu words to watch out for? Words like fried, breaded, battered, crispy, cheesy, buttery, creamy, sautéed, stuffed and white sauce are just a few. Descriptions like these indicate the food is high in fat and calories so if you’re choosing to order foods with these descriptions, use your discretion and limit your portions.
Now that you know some healthy and “red flag” words, what are some tips to use when ordering your meal? Here are a few ideas.
• For a lighter meal one option can be to order an appetizer (as long as it’s a healthy one) with a salad or two healthy appetizers instead of a high fat/calorie entrée.
• You can start with a clear-‐based soup or salad versus a cream based soup.
• You can ask that the bread basked not be put down on the table. If that’s not an option, make a rule about how much you’ll have before you go and stick to it!
• At a buffet or salad bar, load up on the vegetables and watch out for high fat toppings and mixtures.
• You can portion off half of the entrée and share it or pack it up for another meal.
• You can use the opportunity to enjoy what the restaurant is known for; enjoying a small portion of those foods which are unique, interesting and symbolic of that restaurant while avoiding ordinary foods that you can have anywhere.
• You can substitute fruit, salad or steamed vegetables in place of high fat side dishes.
• You can use condiments like ketchup, mustard, vinegar, lemon and salsa versus butter,
sour cream, cheese or creamy sauces.
• You can ask for foods “dry” or with sauces on the side.
• You can use the “fork trick” for your salad. Some of us have the best of intentions when ordering salad with a high fat dressing on the side yet by the end of the meal, they find they’ve used up most of the dressing. I always encourage using a salad dressing you love because salad is too important of a food to be turned off to by a poor tasting dressing. With the “fork trick” you can have a dressing that’s loaded without the damage! Here’s what you do: Instead of piercing the salad first then dipping it into the dressing try it in reverse! Dip the fork in the dressing first…then pierce the salad. You’ll still get the flavor you love without using nearly as much as if you did it the other way. I do this daily with my favorite salad dressing and one of the most high fat salad dressings there is-‐ Thousand Island… and it’s worked for years!
So now that we’ve covered a few words to watch out for and some healthy ways to order, what are some behaviors to try so you can enjoy your meal guilt and weight gain free?
• With food still left on your plate, you can casually add some salt, pepper or other seasoning that would make the entrée less appealing to you.
• You can put your napkin on the plate indicating (even if it’s only to yourself) that you’re done.
•You can say something like “Wow that was great, I’m stuffed.” Making a public declaration like that or another you’re comfortable with may make you think twice about digging back in once again.
You can push your plate out of reach. You can put the opposite ends of your utensils onto the plate. Now they’re unpleasant to pick up.
You can pay attention to things like:
-‐The flavor, texture and aroma the food was designed to give.
-‐The atmosphere and ambience of the restaurant.
-‐The conversations and connections with those you’re with.
Being more mindful of your surroundings will help you feel more satisfied with less food.
When drinking alcohol, you can pre plan the amount you’ll have and stick to it! Remember, if you “fail to plan, then plan to fail!”
You can slow down! Put your fork down between bites, drink plenty of water to help pace yourself and enjoy heaping conversations versus heaping portions of food!
One of inconvenience the waiter/waitress or bring attention to themselves. Remember, chances are the restaurant staff has heard your requests before. Also, if you don’t order a meal the way you’d like, the only person you’re really inconveniencing is yourself because you won’t feel proud of the choices you’ve made as well as the way those choices make your body look and feel.
Restaurant ordering doesn’t have to be a daunting and confusing task. It can be simple, delicious and enjoyable with some education and a few smart choices. Enjoy!
Debi Silber, MS, RD, WHC The Mojo Coach®, founder of www.TheMojoCoach.com is a leading health, fitness, wellness, lifestyle, self-‐improvement expert and THE secret behind some of the healthiest, most dynamic, energetic and successful people today. Sign up for your “10 FREE Strategies to Get You Lean, Sleek and Sculpted”! (These are complete programs and videos) and take the FREE “Mojo Lifestyle Assessment” to see how you score.
Restaurant Tips and Tricks