…I eat food and break out in fat! This was a quip by our leader Pat at last week’s meeting. But it’s true for those of us at Weight Watchers. (I’m not trying to make fun of anyone who has a true food allergy – they are very serious and should be very carefully watched.) Last week’s topic was eating out. How appropriate since one member mentioned that her husband was taking her out to eat – again! He felt she had worked hard enough over the years she deserved to not have to cook. He felt he was being kind to her but she was worried that she couldn’t keep on her WW journey eating out all the time.
She had good reason to be a bit worried. Studies have shown that everything from portions to how food is made in restaurants is always MORE and not in the good way. Portions are usually 2-3 times the amount they should be and lots of fattening things like butter and oil are used instead of healthier options.
So what can you do? Only eat a salad at your favorite place? Don’t go out at all? No, there are lots of tips and tricks you can do to keep on your journey, enjoy the food and still eat out. Here are some of the suggestions our group came up with:
- Think about what you are going to eat ahead of time
- Check to see if they have a web site and review the menu
- Have a salad first (dressing on the side)
- Use your mouth! Tell them you are on Weight Watchers. I’ve done this and often found that the waitress (or in one case the chef who actually came out and suggested the point value of items for me) has been there done that and can make suggestions.
- Ask how things are cooked. Steamed veggies sound very healthy but one place mentioned that they put butter on it afterwards which changes things.
- Split a meal with someone else.
- Use the kid’s menu – smaller portions of meals and they are cheaper!
- Many places will let you substitute healthier options for some of those less healthy sides.
- If you have something like syrup for waffles or pancakes – do it like you would salad dressing. Ask for it on the side and then dip your fork into the syrup and then into your waffles/pancakes.
- If eating out with several people suggest that you all share (ala family style). I’ve done this often at Chinese restaurants so everyone gets a taste or small portion of several great tasting dishes.
- Get your “doggie bag” early and immediately put half of the portion in there and pack it up. If you only have half the portion on your plate you are less tempted to eat the whole thing.
- Decline breads – lovely as they maybe the carbs do add up.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water and not soda. Unsweetened iced tea is also an option.
- Look for the right words in the menu – broiled, baked, steamed, etc. are much healthier than fried, au gratin, battered, etc.
- Pour salt or ketchup (just like one of the Real Housewives of Orange County) over the remaining food so you aren’t tempted to eat more than you should.
Follow these suggestions and you can still eat out but you’ll eat smart.
I overheard one member talking to another about her dinner out at Bonefish Grill (one of my favorite places). Not only was her experience eye-opening for me but it came with good advice for any restaurant you eat in.
She decided not to use her points on carbs but got what she thought (and me too because I had it the last time I was there) was a healthy alternative – steamed vegetables. Thankfully she mentioned to her server that she was on Weight Watchers. The server said “Oh, I’ll tell them not to put the butter on the vegetables then!” I guess I’m naive because I never would have thought that steamed vegetables came any other way but just steamed.
This got me to thinking. Many restaurants are listing healthy alternatives on their menus. Some even mark them with a symbol so you know which ones to choose. But no matter what it is a good practice to get into – ASK! Ask them if they can put salad dressing on the side, ask them if the steamed vegetables come with butter or some kind of flavoring or sauce on them (and if you don’t want it ask them to not prepare it that way), ask if you can have a salad or vegetable instead of a starch/carb at no extra cost.
It is your body, your wallet – don’t hesitate to ask. If they don’t comply then vote with your wallet and go elsewhere.
I learned from her to not trust the menu and the words or symbols on it to be my guide. I need to take control of my journey and asking is just one way I can do that.