The continuing rising rate of obesity in our country and “portion distortion” plays an important part in these statistics. Twenty years ago a portion of spaghetti and meatballs consisted of one-cup spaghetti with sauce and three small meatballs, which totaled 500 calories. Today’s portion is typically two cups of spaghetti with sauce and three large meatballs totaling 1,025 calories!
The average American needs only 2000 calories daily and eats out four to five times a week.
If we are not careful in our menu selections, a single meal can provide our entire daily requirements of calories and fat. If you dine out only occasionally, being concerned about the calorie, fat, and sodium content of your meal may not be an issue. But if you are like the average American, you may want to note some of these helpful tips.
Having a visual of a serving size is a very helpful tool.
See the handy pocket serving size card provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website at http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/servingcard7.pdf. For example, a serving size of pasta is ½ cup, about the size of a baseball cut in half. Most people need six to eleven servings a day from the “grain” category. To determine how many servings a day you need, take into consideration your activity level. If you are not very active, start with six servings a day, then increase the number of servings as your activity level increases.
Did you know that it is now California law for any restaurant with 20 or more locations to post the calories of their meals on their menu?
You can use this information when making your menu selection. In fact just recently I had lunch with a couple of friends and they did look at the calorie count when making their lunch choice. Although there was a bit of disappointment in seeing the calorie count for some items. Also, beware the serving size, some restaurants give the calories per serving and in small print you will see that the entrée you ordered serves 3 or 4!
Another handy tool is the Healthy Dining in San Diego Restaurant Guide.
Their website http://healthydiningfinder.com/ lists the nutrient content of healthy dining options provided by contributing restaurants. Their book is also available, which includes healthy recipes from local restaurants. This organization actively lobbies local restaurants to include at least one healthy dining choice for people who want to eat out and eat healthy.
Another tip I often tell my clients is to share an entrée with your friend.
If that doesn’t work, ask the waiter to package half your entrée in a “to go” bag and then serve you the other half. This way you won’t be tempted to eat the extra. Or do something my husband and I often do, we order a side salad as our first course and then an appetizer as our entrée.
The wording on the menu is actually very informative.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and saw the words: combo, supersize, all-you-can-eat, deluxe, or supreme? These are code words for portion distortion, and a clue to find a different option. Other words to avoid are: smothered, crispy, fried, battered, au gratin, translation: “high fat”. Instead look for items that are steamed, baked, broiled or grilled. Remember you are the customer; it’s ok for you to ask for sauces and dressings on the side. This way you can control the portion. And, as I often say, “think color”. Half of your plate should be colorful (fruits and veggies), one-quarter of the plate should be starch (rice, potatoes, pasta), and the last quarter should be protein (no more than 3 ounces).
Remember, it’s OK to enjoy an occasional restaurant meal; but be aware of portion and serving sizes, your daily calorie and fat requirements, and watch for key words on the menus. If you follow these tips, you can enjoy a good meal and eat healthy.