Not a day goes by that a patient doesn’t ask me, “What about going out to eat? How can I eat clean when I am in a restaurant?”
My answer is always the same. It is not easy and you have to do your homework. You may also have to go with your own food or beverage. Yup, that is what I do. I take my own Ginger Ale. This is not ideal, but it is better than drinking their tap water or wishing I had a vodka tonic. (Q Ginger Ale is made with organic agave and has only 15 grams of sugar per bottle and lots of real ginger.) I have also been known to take my own salad dressing.
Most of us believe that we just have to avoid fast food restaurants in order to remain healthy. It turns out that it isn’t just fast food that is the problem. A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows 92% of all restaurants, big and small, mom and pop or national chains, exceed the calorie requirements for a single meal. That burrito bowl at Chipotle? That’s actually 2 portions. You should split that with someone.
Researchers measured meals from 364 different restaurants across the U.S. They found that 123 of them had a single meal—without beverages, appetizers, or desserts—that exceeded a person’s caloric requirements for a whole day!
A patient of mine lamented recently that she does fine all week eating clean at home but that when she goes out to eat, she almost always overeats. It makes sense according to the senior author of the study, Dr. Susan B. Roberts of Tufts University, “These findings make it clear that making healthy choices while eating out is difficult because the combination of tempting options and excessive portions often overwhelm our self-control . . .” She goes on to say “Although fast food restaurants are often the easiest targets for criticism . . . Small restaurants typically provide just as many calories. And sometimes more.”
One very interesting finding was that five of the restaurants in the study provided side dishes at no extra cost. The average energy provided by these items was 471 kcal, which was greater than the 443 kcal for the entrées they accompanied. No wonder you can gain a couple of pounds going out to dinner once or twice a week.
Which ones are the worst? The study showed that American, Chinese, and Italian restaurants had the highest calorie counts, averaging 1,500 calories per meal.
So what can you do? Start by choosing the healthiest restaurants. Always pick the ones that offer grass-fed and wild caught. If you are lucky enough to have any organic restaurants, choose those. Stick to the items on the menu with the fewest ingredients. Pass on the bread and do consider bringing your own dressing. Order the veggies not the pastas, pastries or pancakes. In Cincinnati, I dine at the Capital Grille. I always order the lamp chops and a side of asparagus.
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED), as well as obesity. She is also the author of The Sun Plus Diet, due out in summer 2016.
Contact Dr Norton by phone 513-205-6543 or by form
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