By Andrea Holwegner, For The Calgary Herald February 3, 2011
Some time ago I was about to give a nutrition seminar to the employees of an oil and gas company downtown when a tall lanky guy in his 30s strutted to the front of the room and sat down directly in front of me.
With a smirk on his face he proceeded to chow down on a greasy fast food combo meal.
As I began my session I could see this wise guy was surprised that I didn’t scold him about his lunch.
I reminded him that there are no bad meals, just bad diets as a whole.
If there are 21 meals (breakfasts, lunches and suppers) per week, even if two of them were total nutritional disasters you would still score over 90 per cent on your diet if the other 19 meals were reasonably healthy. I rarely meet people that look at the big picture of their total diet like this. Try it this week: what’s your score out of 21?
If you’re like me and only eat out occasionally, find freedom in enjoying whatever you want. If, however, you eat out regularly, there are some things you need to know:
– Someone else controls the menu, quality of the food and cooking methods.
– Larger portions contribute extra calories.
– Meals are often high-fat, boosting flavour and calories. Higher amounts of saturated and trans fats are used, bad for heart health.
– Restaurant and fast food meals are usually high in sodium. In some cases, a single meal may have more sodium than is recommended for a whole day.
– Heaps of bread, pasta or rice and large bottomless cups of pop are cheap, and consumers perceive them as good value. But big portions of carbohydrate-rich foods aren’t optimal for weight and diabetes management.
– Meals are often low in higher-fibre choices such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit, all of which are good for long-term health.
With the above challenges in mind, follow the 12 S’s of eating out:
– Select the “right” place. This is a place that firstly offers healthy choices and second a place you are willing to make these choices.
– Scan the website in advance. Most fast-food outlets and franchises post nutrition data about their menu on their website. Check out your favourite choices and compare other options.
– Say what you would like! You have more choice than you think; all you have to do is ask.
– Sauces and spreads go on the side or are skipped altogether. Reducing dressings, mayonnaise, butter or margarine can substantially decrease calories and fat in your meal.
– Substitutions, such as salad, soup or steamed veggies in place of fries, are often available.
– Share with a friend. This is a good way to eat less of higher-calorie items, but still enjoy a taste.
– Supplement part of the meal by bringing harder to find or more expensive items such as a fruit or raw veggies for breakfast or lunch.
– Smaller options, such as appetizers or half orders can replace meal-size or full orders.
– Save some for later. Take some of your meal home for tomorrow or, if you are often tempted to overeat, ask for half to be packaged up before it even arrives.
– Slurp sensibly. Be mindful of what and how much pop, iced tea, wine, beer and cocktails you are drinking.
– Snack on something nutritious before you eat out to avoid getting too hungry and overeating.
– Spend wisely on soulful foods. Budget for treats chosen for enjoyment rather than nutrition, just like you manage your cash flow. Splurge on your favourites and save on others that are less important to you.
Finally, keep in mind that rules are great, but it’s also important to know when to be flexible.
I personally live by the philosophy that when you are on your own, eat your best.
It is more difficult to make good choices with your family on Friday pizza night or when going out for lunch with co-workers. When you are eating socially have some fun, be flexible and go with the flow.
Andrea Holwegner, “the chocoholic dietitian,” is owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc . Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com or call 403-262-3466 for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, professional speaking and to subscribe to a blog or free monthly ezine.