Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Understanding how dining out can add calories Spotting the high-fat cues on menus

Knowing your best ethnic food choices

  • Eating before you take off and during your flight
  • Eating out can pose special problems for dieters.

New menu choices are tempting, portion sizes are large, and many professional kitchens don't normally use lowfat or low-calorie cooking methods as standard practice. In fact, as a rule, the less expensive the restaurant, the more likely it is that the kitchen uses generous amounts of fat and high-fat cooking techniques - inexpensive and easy ways to add flavor to food. A fish fillet, for example, must be high quality and cooked skillfully if it's going to taste delicious simply broiled or baked without a coating of oil or buttery sauce.

But don't fear. This article can help you navigate menus and still enjoy going out to eat. Armed with the information we give, you can be a dining detective, avoiding the high-fat items and zeroing in on the lower-calorie and lower-fat meals with ease.

Knowing Your Enemy

The whole dining-out experience can cost you plenty of calories. How many times have you had to wait in the bar until your table was ready? Cocktails add calories and lessen your diet resolve - you get to the table famished aDiet Startnd not exactly steeled against temptation. And then the impulse to clean your plate overtakes you because, after all, you're paying big bucks for the meal. But take heart: You can maneuver around these predicaments.

For example, if you do dine out frequently, consider becoming a regular at one spot. That way, the wait staff and kitchen can get to know you. They can alert you to items that are especially dieter friendly, and the kitchen won't be thrown by your specialhealthy diet and nutrition requests - a plus during the busiest dining hours.

Whether dining out is more special or a routine part of your day, keep this advice in mind:

Restaurant meals are often considered special occasions.

More frequently, though they're last-minute solutions when you're too tired or stressed to make dinner. Both scenarios set you up for overindulging. Remember to look at the meal in context of the entire day's eating or what you'll eat over several days.

Restaurant meals are often loaded with fat.

Fat is an easy way to make foods taste good. Fat is also cheap compared to lean meat, so restaurants use it liberally because it makes their bottom line healthy - although it doesn't do much for the shape of your bottom. Be a fat detective. Ask questions about preparation and request substitutions.

Portions may be huge.

You often get twice the amount that you really need to eat. Share an entree with a friend or order two appetizers instead of one entree. Don't be embarrassed to ask for a doggie bag.

Menus are organized with the focus on protein, and the servings of protein are much too large.

Meat, chicken, and fish often get the most "ink," with little attention paid to side dishes. So cast your eye over to the side dishes section and choose from the plainer ones. (That is, those without sauces.) Another way to create a better balance may be to order your entree from the appetizer section.

Most meals eaten out include alcohol.

Not only is alcohol calorie heavy and nutrient poor, but it also lowers your resolve to eat healthfully. If you enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine when eating out, plan to limit your intake to one, and drink it with, not before, the meal.

These are important tactics to keep in mind wherever you dine. They're a start. But menus are always going to be written to entice and seduce you into ordering more than you intend. If you can discover how to read between the lines and spot the red flags for dieters, you'll rarely be duped into ordering and eating more than you want. And when you eat ethnic, try to find out a little about the cuisine, the ingredients, and the typical methods of cooking so that foreign phrases don't throw you.

Menu Sleuthing

If you know how to translate the code, menu descriptions can yield clues to the fat and calorie contents of a dish. For example, "Grande taco salad served in a crispy tortilla shell, topped with lean sautéed like a good choice at first. But the words grande, crispy, and sauteed tell you that this is no low-cal salad. In fact, it contains about 700 calories! If you're restricting your intake to 1,200 calories a day, do you really want to get more than half your calories from a single dish? Following are the most commonly used menu words that speak volumes - calorically, that is.

Lots of fat:

  • Alfredo
  • Basted
  • Batter-dipped
  • Breaded
  • Buttery
  • Creamy
  • Crispy and crunchy (except when describing raw vegetables)
  • Deep-fried
  • Marinated
  • Pan-fried
  • Rich Sauteed
  • Coated
  • Dressed
  • Dipped
  • Bathed

Huge portion sizes:

  • Combo
  • Feast
  • Grande
  • Jumbo
  • King-size
  • Supreme

Saner sizes:

  • Appetizer
  • Kiddie
  • Luncheon
  • Petite
  • Regular
  • Salad-size

A portion to a restaurant may not bea portion to you!

Restaurant portion sizes have more to do with controlling operation expenses than with balancing nutrients. Most restaurants use standardized ladles, spoons, cups, and scoops, and their capacity is generally larger than what you would use at home. Some typical institutional measures are:

  • Salad dressing ladle =1/2 cup
  • Pat of butter = 2 teaspoons
  • Scoop of ice cream= 11/2 to 2 cups
  • Burger = 6 to 8 ounces
  • Meat, poultry, or fish = 8 to 12 ounces
  • Beverages: small = 2 cups, medium =4 cups, large = 6 cups
  • Theater popcorn: small = 4 cups, large = 10 cups, jumbo = 15 to 20 cups
  • Wine= 6 to 8 ounces

... andjoyohoxing