Eating out doesn’t necessarily mean pigging out

My work and social life being what they are, it is not uncommon for me to find myself sitting down to eat in some restaurant or other. Nice though this is, it’s also true that eating establishments are not renowned for offering a large and varied selection of healthy, nutritionally balanced meals. Despite knowing better, I can still find myself tempted by fat-filled entrees and sugar-charged desserts. Over the years, I have discovered cunning ways with which to navigate the nutritional minefield that eating out presents. Put them into practice, and you may well find that you can pile in the food without piling on the pounds.

Listen to most doctors and dieticians and you would be forgiven for believing that the principle cause of excess weight is simply eating too much. With this thought firmly entrenched in our minds, many of us will attempt to compensate for an indulgent meal out by eating more frugally at other times. The odd skipped meal or two, and a definite ban on between meal snacking, are common tactics used when a blowout is anticipated. However, while cutting back on food may seem sound in theory, in practice it is simply a recipe for disaster.

Skipping meals and eschewing snacks is a sure-fire way to sharpen the appetite. Problem is, once we have sat down in a restaurant, it’s amazing the ferocity with which hunger can bite. Quite easily, two or three bread rolls and a pat of butter can disappear rapid style. Plus, a raging appetite can make ordering with any degree of self-control very difficult. In such a situation, it can take an iron will to choose the salade Nicoise over the steak and chips.

In my experience, a better tactic to take before eating out is not to eat less, but more. Regular meals, perhaps with some healthy snacking in between, is one sure way to keep the appetite in check, and this can make choosing healthily in a restaurant a veritable breeze. In practice, I have found that eating a half-decent breakfast is often a critical factor in controlling appetite throughout the day. A bowl of muesli with natural yoghurt and some fresh fruit should do the trick.

Snacks of some fresh fruit and perhaps a handful of nuts are a useful ploy too. Good times for a spot of re-fuelling are the late morning and afternoon. Hungry or not, eating a healthy snack at these times keep us out of a lot of trouble later on. Tactical eating I call it. With a little something already in the stomach, a salad based starter and lean main course accompanied by plenty of veg may be more than enough to satisfy our appetite. You may be wondering what effect grazing your way through the day will have on your waistline. Fret not; studies show that eating little and often is a useful tactic in keeping weight in check.

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