Stop eating soft noodles at Chinese restaurants; they contain mainly fat.
At airports, do not buy from the food stands. Cinnabun, Pizza Hut, and other fast food restaurants only offer carbohydrates that will leave you feeling hungry a short time after eating. Instead, bring your own food. I either bring “roll ups”—lean meat (turkey, usually), cheese, lettuce, tomato and mustard wrapped in a spinach tortilla that I pack these in a flat, insulated lunch box that fits easily in my kids’ backpacks, or I go to Subway beforehand and get turkey subs with everything on them (375 for a six-inch sub with cheese; 330 without cheese).
For snacks we eat nuts and jerky. In a tight pinch, we might buy a Burger King hamburger at 130 calories and 250 mgs. of sodium. This is a much better choice than a Whopper with cheese (at 760 calories and 1380 mgs. of sodium, and certainly better than Double Whopper with mayo (1010 calories and 1460 mgs. of sodium). Do not order French Fries. Even a small unsalted portion adds 250 calories and 480 mgs. of sodium to your intake. A small chocolate shake will add another 330 calories to this list. Have a Diet Pepsi (0 calories) and a kiddie nonfat yoghurt (88 calories) from TCBY, instead.
Instead of dumping dressing onto your salad, ask for dressing on the side and dip the ends of your fork into the dressing before skewering your greens. You may find that you don’t need dressing as much as you thought. Try fat-free dressings. My favorite is fat-free Italian (this, instead of fattening butter and sour cream, goes on the baked potato, as well). You can completely ruin a low-calorie and low-sodium salad by adding 500 calories or more of dressing.
Do NOT feel as if you have to eat everything on your plate. ONLY eat until you are full. More is not better. Just because corn, avocados and potatoes are traditional foods that does not mean you can eat as much as you want of them. You must control the portions you consume. It’s as simple as that. As we grow older, our metabolisms change and become slower. In high school, I could eat a huge breakfast, lunch and devour an entire pizza for dinner by myself, but at that time I was a teenager, ran every day and rode my bike 8 miles to and from school. I had to adjust the amount of food I took in at age 30, then again at 35, 40 and 45. You can’t eat as much as your teenager. So, unless you are a marathoner, don’t attempt it. If you are not hungry, settle for fruit, yoghurt or a smoothie. Just because everyone around you is eating does not mean you have to. Consider eating five to six small meals a day are easier on your body than three large meals. You are better able to monitor how full you are if you eat smaller portions.
Unless I am very hungry and know I can handle everything on my plate, then I use the following strategies to make sure I don’t overeat and, to make sure that what I eat is healthy:
Order an appetizer instead of an entrée (such as shrimp cocktail; chicken sate, a bowl of soup, dinner salad, etc.)
Drink plenty of water with lemon so you won’t be tempted to order a calorie-filled drink.
You and your partner order an appetizer and split an entree.
Tell the waiter to take back the bread and/or chips basket. If it’s not in front of you, you can’t eat it.
Do not fall prey to the annoying waiters/waitresses who almost force desserts and drinks onto your table. Say up front that you do not want to see the dessert tray. Say no and mean it.
Eat only half of your meal and ask for a doggie plate. I ask for one as soon as the food arrives so I can put half the meal in the container immediately and not be tempted.
Tell the waiter to remove any completed meal you do not plan to take home so you won’t be tempted to pick.
Never order dessert. If it is a special occasion, or you have been very active that day, then sometimes (not as a rule!) order one dessert and split it with the rest of the table. If you must eat dessert, share it. Our family may indulge in say, Key Lime pie, but we divide one serving between four people. A dessert that we eat guilt-free is low fat yoghurt topped with mandarin oranges and a banana.
Do not order drinks unless it’s a diet drink or unsweetened tea. Considering how expensive tea bags are these days at restaurants, just water helps with your pocketbook.
Eat an apple or a small cup of vegetable soup before leaving the house so you won’t be tempted to eat everything you see.
Tell yourself ahead of time that you will not eat the fried bread, potato or egg salad, chips, cookies, cakes or pies. Tell yourself that you will eat the healthier alternatives: the mayonnaise-free vegetable salads, fruit, beans, a hamburger with only half the bun, and just one half of a dessert (I like oatmeal cookies). It helps a lot to have a partner/friend with you who follows the same strategy.
One way to solve the unhealthy pot-luck problem is to being healthy foods yourself. If you bring sliced vegetables with fat-free ranch dip, a variety of cut-up fruit, a crock pot of vegetable stew, a large salad (I always bring my “Everything Salad,” Tamfulla and/or elk stew) to events, then you know you will have things to eat.
If you are traveling any distance in a car, then invest in an ice chest. Pack healthy foods for your family so you can either by pass the fast food restaurants or use your own food to supplement “road food.”
Take yoghurt, fruit (it helps to put fruits in plastic containers so they don’t bruise), containers of applesauce, low calorie drinks, cheese, peanut butter, whole grain bread, sliced low fat meat, condiments, plastic glasses, paper towels and dinnerware. Think ahead about all the things you normally use at home that can be taken on the road so when you take a break at rest stops or at hotels you’ll have everything you need.
If you plan on frequenting restaurants, being along your own low fat, low calorie salad dressing and use that instead of fattening Ranch, Thousand Island and Blue Cheese dressings. Take your own Stevia packets instead of using Sweet ‘N Low in coffee and tea. Fill up on salad, low calorie appetizers, split entrees, never order dessert and always request fruit instead of fries (this is really important for children who often are stuck with greasy choices on the kids’ menu). You will not only save money, you also will be proud to discover that you have not gained any “vacation weight.”
Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings want to feed you when you visit. You can deal with unhealthy food for a day or two, but for extended visits you must take matters into your own hands. Tell them you would like to contribute to the meals. Go to the local grocery store and buy ingredients for a large salad that includes lean meats and a low calorie and fat dressing; this is a meal by itself. For other meals make skinless chicken breasts, squash, corn and cornbread, or perhaps grilled catfish, spinach salad, sweet potatoes, and corn tortillas. Breakfasts can be oven-baked potato slices, egg white omelets filled with sautéed vegetables and lean ham. Buy fruits, cheese sticks and vegetables to snack on.
When said family comes to visit you, use the same healthy ideas for meals, but add one dish per meal that they like. For example, if your family insists on white flour tortillas, make sure that this is supplemented with fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Try new ways of preparing green chile. You do not need ice cream and cake for dessert. Yoghurt, fruit and nuts can satisfy almost anyone, especially if you put it in a fancy cup or dessert flute.
It is crucial that anyone concerned about nutrition check the ingredients of your meals. This is easier than you might think. You can access specific restaurant nutritional analysis, such as Burger King, at http://www.burgerking.com/food/nutrition/index.aspx. McDonalds is as http://www.mcdonalds.ca/en/food/calculator.aspx. Taco Bell at http://www.yum.com/nutrition/menu.aspx . But to make things easier, you can access http://www.foodanddiet.com/NewFiles/fastfood.html, http://www.nutritiondata.com/ or the book The NutriBase Complete Book of Food Counts (New York: Avery, 2001) for a complete list of restaurants and the nutritional data for the food they serve.