With Jordan in baseball camp and Kendall’s packed social calendar last week, I spent an exorbitant amount of my time reading my Personal Nutrition text, listening to the brilliant Dr. Andrew Weil’s teaching in his CD series called Taking Care of Yourself, and discussing with Jay the excessive amount of information that I have crammed into my brain about food, nutrition and our general health.

One of my reading topics, that happened to be a recently featured story on Good Morning America, was weight management and obesity in relation to eating out.  A major concern being the gargantuan portion sizes on our plates in America.  The average fast food meal in the 1960’s was about 500 calories; and now with the super size options in this country, a single meal is closer to 1500 calories! 1500!!! That is an entire day’s worth of calories for some people. It’s no wonder that 1 in 3 Americans are overweight or obese!

With this being said, I reflected back on previous conversations I have had with friends about being able to eat out, enjoy it and making healthy food choices at the same time.  I recognize that numerous restaurants just do not offer healthy food options on their menus and consequently, I choose to stay away from those restaurants. I also realize that there are many restaurants that do have options for my family and other health conscious eaters alike.  I have researched numerous restaurants surrounding the Charlotte area; which is how I came to find one of Jay’s and my favorite hidden lunch spots called Blynk Organics in uptown. Healthy food is out there and in our restaurants, you just have to find it or ask the questions.  Ask if they have wheat pasta instead of white; brown rice as opposed to white rice.  Ask if they have olive oil for your bread instead of butter. Ask if they are grilling your chicken or cooking it in a pan full of vegetable oil.  Ask, ask, ask….you are what you eat! Every cell in your body functions from what you ingest.  The food you eat is fueling your body so that it can function properly everyday and you have the right to know if that “fuel” is full of crap.

So, back to portion sizes…..my suggestion is that you do not have to finish your entire plate!  This is not 25 years ago when your mother stood over you and said, “You cannot have dessert until you finish everything on your plate.”  It is ok to leave some or take the leftovers home. This brings me to another point; the USDA has introduced a new and easier way to measure how we should be eating. You can visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov to learn more and observe that ½ of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with the other half split between protein and whole grains.  This does not equate to ½ a plate of fried chicken and the other ½ mashed potatoes smothered in gravy (resembling a colorless blob of heart attack on a plate). The more color on your plate, the healthier and the better food choice.

A few additional helpful tips for eating out are:

  • Stay away from entrees with words such as sautéed, sauce, smothered, creamy, fried, battered, crispy, golden brown, breaded, carbonara, tempura
  • Better choices would be: grilled, broiled, baked or steamed
  • Red sauce (tomato based) is always a better choice than white sauce (cream based)
  • Always order salad dressing or sauces on the side.  An even better option is to ask for olive oil and vinegar to use as your dressing
  • Examples of good appetizer choices are a side salad, edamame, cocktail shrimp, hummus & veggies, fruit & cheese platter

Regardless of if you are eating out or at home, eat slowly and enjoy your food.  Give your body time to feel satisfied. If you inhale your food, your gut doesn’t have time to send those important signals to your brain that you are full. Before you know it, you are leaning back in your chair and loosening your pants wishing you hadn’t eaten so much.

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