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Menu Aerobics: How to Eat Out Without Pigging Out: Energy Express
By Marilynn Preston
By Marilynn Preston
Dining out has become our national pastime. So has porking up. Is there a link between the two? You bet your Krispy Kremes. We're a fast-food nation of overeating eater-outers, and if you wish to trim down and stay healthy, you've got to wise up when it comes to ordering a meal. Eating out isn't the enemy, I tell myself on the way to a fun evening of wining and dining. Making stupid choices is.
So listen up. Menu aerobics is all about activating your awareness and exercising good judgment. What'll it be? Chicken fajitas or a beef chimichanga? Veal parmigiana or spaghetti bolognese? Take the following brilliant strategy to heart, and not only will your whole body benefit, you'll save money, too.
FORGET FRIED. This is basic. Stop ordering fried foods. Just say no to fried chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes and all their high-fat friends. And if and when you have a lapse -- and you will -- at least pull the breading off before you chow down. This is extremely challenging in the case of crispy french fries, so if that's your weakness, eat 5 of them, slowly, have your best time, and move the rest out of reach. If you're not sure whether the item is fried -- I am speaking to the boys now -- ask. A chimichanga is fried. Anything parmigiana is fried. If giving up fried foods sounds impossible and even un-American, just postpone your next fried meal until the next time you eat out, and then the next time, and then the next time, and eventually you will discover how good steamed, baked or broiled foods can taste.
FOCUS ON STARTERS. Next to sharing an entree, this is my favorite tactic when eating out, especially in an upscale restaurant. Open the menu and slide your eyes right over to the entrees. Go immediately to the appetizers, sides and salads. And rejoice. Great taste, smaller portions. Enjoy modest amounts of meat and cheese, if you wish. Experiment with veggies and grains until you find the ones you love. Your life will improve overnight if you learn to make a meal out of a clear soup or salad and an appetizer, or two appetizers. If you're worried that you won't feel full, tell yourself (and your waitperson) you may order something else later. I've done this dozens of times, maybe thousands, and I can pretty much guarantee that "later" will never come. If you're worried about what your dining partners will say, get over it or seek professional help.
WET STUFF ON THE SIDE. Memorize and use the following phrase, and you can save zillions of unwanted fat calories: "Please bring the sauce (or salad dressing) on the side." Is that so hard? Practice at home, and say it with a smile in every restaurant you visit. I'm all for tasty sauces and dressings, but most restaurants just pour it on without thinking, and without thinking, you take it all in. So get the wet stuff on the side, dip your fork in, and sprinkle on modest amounts. The difference between one-and-a-half tablespoons of a dressing and the typical cup can be 20 grams of fat or more.
SPLIT DISHES OR LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS. When did portions in restaurants get so big? It's crazy. Europeans laugh at our supersize meals. Research shows that the more food you have on your plate, the more you eat. So tactic No. 1 is to share an entree with a pal. A tummy-trimming alternative is to order an entree for yourself, eat half, and plan to take the rest home. If you have a problem leaving food on the plate -- as a charter member of the Clean Plate Club, I know this syndrome well -- then do something daring and order a doggy bag when you order the meal. When it arrives, put half of your entree into the bag and ask your waitperson to please bring it back when you're ready to leave. Yes, this is a drastic measure. But portion-wise, these are crazy times.
DESSERT! The healthiest desserts are fruits and ices. If you can't resist that chocolate cream pie or peach cobbler, share it, and then limit yourself to a few mindful bites. Slow down and focus on the yumminess of whatever you've chosen. Pass it around. Then kiss it goodbye.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O: THANK YOU, AUNT BERT
Marilynn Preston -- fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues -- is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.
Categories: Health & Wellness, Women's Health,
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