The Perils of Eating Out

January 15, 2014   40 Comments

How did we get in a situation where going to a restaurant is dangerous? No, I’m not talking about getting mugged on your way back to the car.

Eating Out Tips

I’m talking about those bad boys in the photo. The fries in the photo are in black and white because I have been getting complaints about the food being too tempting on the site.

Food is also tempting when you can order it and a nice person shows up and serves it to you. If you are trying to eat healthy, you probably have a restaurant strategy. Mine began years ago with the elimination of fries from my dinner when I go out.

Funny story – last week I went out to dinner with my family and ordered a burger with a side salad (instead of fries) and the dressing on the side. I do this EVERY time I order a burger. The server brought me a burger with fries.

AAAAH! What do I do? Throw a tantrum and toss them on the floor? Run screaming from the restaurant? My children were watching me so I put the fries on my husband’s plate and simply asked for my salad.

This isn’t the first time I got fries when I asked for salad.

What else do I avoid? The bread basket, the chip basket, the free popcorn, or any other “free” addition to my meal. It is not really FREE. These foods tend to be high in sodium and fat – before you know it you have added 500 calories to a meal and you didn’t even mean to eat THREE of those warm dinner rolls.

I will admit to having eating three dinner rolls when I was hungry and the food was taking a long time. I believe it was like eating 6 slices of bread in one sitting.

Yes, eating out can be perilous.

The other side is that eating out is supposed to be pleasurable and it is easier than cooking. No shopping, prep, cleaning… I LOVE eating out - but I don’t do it very often because it is so hard to stay healthy and my bank account doesn’t like it very much.

How do you deal with eating out? What scary things have you encountered?

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Same here. Salad instead of fries. Soda water instead of a Coke. (I found that I crave the fizz on my throat, not the sweetness of Coke). If they don't have Soda water, I begrudgingly order Coke Zero with its crazy sugar replacement chemicals. lol.

I have found that eating out has lost it's appeal. Once you have tasted enjoying the "good" stuff, brocolli not swimming in butter,life without bread, French fries, and chicken without batter, restaurant food just doesn't cut it!! NOT THAT I DON'T MAKE MISTAKES, I DO. But home prepared food is so much better!!!

I agree with all the above comments. Eating out with friends and not having to focus on entertaining at home is very nice, however, if it is good food I want, home is the best!

Seems almost every social gathering for me involves going out to eat. Last night, my gang met at a new (Chain) restaurant. The portions were HUGE, and honestly, I was so unimpressed that I didn't even take the leftovers (half of the meal) home.

My strategy: ask for a take-home container at the BEGINNING of the meal - put half of your meal in the box for lunch the next day, and enjoy your portion-controlled meal.

The sad thing is I rarely eat out for all the reasons you've mentioned saving the few occasions to REALLY special reasons. For me it's just a fact of life and in reality something I don't actually miss. I cook from whole ingredients and know exactly what I'm eating, where it came from and who touched it.

I love the black and white photos for stuff that is "really not food."

I normally try to avoid chain restaurants, but there are several close to my office and we have regular business lunches. I usually am able to find out ahead of time where we're going, and the (only?) good thing about chain restaurants is that most of them post nutritional information online. This allows me to make an educated choice before I even get to the restaurant. The absolute WORST thing, in my opinion, is that even the "healthy" choices are total sodium bombs. Yesterday I had a grilled chicken breast, grilled asparagus and roasted potato medley at Max & Erma's. It was actually really good. However, at almost 1000 mg of sodium, it was the LOWEST SODIUM ITEM I COULD FIND on the menu. Ridiculous. No one needs that much salt. Restaurants need to get creative and figure out how to make the food taste good without killing us!

well timed comment. I do not normally eat out but this evening I am invited to a book lovers meeting and everyone chips in and brings something nice to eat and I will have to cosider and reconisder what to choose from the "spread"... Myself I am bringing an egg salad, the Jewish kind with frills.

You behaved politely and set a good example for you kids to learn how to respond to disappointment. GREAT JOB!! Too many adults are behaving like spoilt children. Thanks for sharing that too :)

Fess up, Snack Girl. Did you "try" one of those accidental french fries on your plate?!

I always drink water, and ask for my salad to be served first, dressing on the side. If I'm ordering an entree, I always get a small steak with a side of veggies, no starch. I WILL eat a roll though.

I don't eat out a lot, but I never worry about it when I do. Almost every restaurant has a grilled chicken breast, baked or broiled fish, or a dinner salad on the menu. If I can, I order a baked potato as ask for salsa (or bring my own) for it. I also will bring my own fat free salad dressing if I'm having salad.

I don't enjoy eating out because paying for a salad,when i really want the mushroom blue cheese burger and baked potatoes with butter abd sour cream and bacon bits, seems a waste of money. I guess I must have had a great salad in the past but it just didn't leave a lasting impression. I am good for the whole basket of bread with butter unless my wife intervenes.

While I agree that restaurants add too much fat and salt to their food, most of what you are describing is the kind of food at chain restaurants. I find much better food at local restaurants, some of which specialize in local and seasonal ingredients and some of which are ethnic food. That way if I am going to exceed my normal caloric amounts (which I plan for in the rest of my eating that day), I am at least getting food that is pleasurable to eat and different than I can make at home.

your poor husband! getting used as the garbage dump for 'fries. I would simply point out the

order was NOT what was ordered and ask for the

correct side. IN. A. PLEASANT. SWEET. VOICE. which to any adult would sound like a 'you moron, didn't you write down the order' vs. an amazing MOM who doesn't have to eat (or shove on someone else's plate) something she didn't WANT!

When eating out I ask them to always only bring 1/2 the meal to me to eat and the remaining in a take home bag. I do eat 1 roll but I eat it slow so it last. Any free desserts also get put in a take home bag. The GREAT part about my take home bag is my 16 yr old son. I never EVER to get to eat anything I take home. LOL

If you live in/near a college town or an area that embraces local, organics, etc., you can usually find a vegetarian or vegan restaurant; they're cropping up all over it seems. I find nutritious and very exciting new food combinations; which is one aspect I look for in dining out. Personally I don't eat out alot because like a alot of others here I prefer eating my own cooking but if I needed a break I'd choose some of Ct's vegan places and try to snag some new meal ideas. [Some I've tried -,,].

I have found lately, that eating out at most of the places available in my neighborhood is disappointing. I often spend my meal wondering, "why didn't they...." and "I can cook this better." I suppose I've been cooking 17 years now and I just don't understand it when they ruin ingredients that are simple to make (without loading them down with salt or grease or overcooking). That being said....the chip basket and the bread basket are my downfall eating out. Lately, I try to avoid restaurants that have them because I find it very difficult to not eat more than I should.

Being a vegetarian, eating out continues to be a struggle. Restaurants don't realize that my food cannot be cooked with meat. I get sick if my food touches meat. I eat healthy and tend to stick with salads. I avoid certain restaurants because I'm limited in choices. I can almost always find something healthy and if it's wrong, I send it back.

My probably is not with healthy eating (though bread baskets are my downfall! I avoid those restaurants). It's people not knowing, understanding, or caring that I can't have meat. Vegetarianism started as a choice, but now I can't physically have it or have my food cooked with it.

The best solution I have found is to eat at home as much as possible, and when my family does eat out we avoid chain restaurants like the plague. We instead choose local, little ethnic spots to eat where there are no freebies (bread, chips, rolls)provided. You only get what you actually buy. It is always a treat and I don't worry about the calories too much.

I hate eating out. I usually just get some plain grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. I hate having to mention to waiters not to put butter or oil on the veggies, and to not sauce up the meat. At home, I know that the sauces and toppings I put on my food are not loaded with saturated fat and extra calories. Nevertheless, it is frustrating how every special occasion needs to be celebrated with going out to a restaurant. Can't we start to celebrate in different ways?

Just reading through my inbox this morning. Right before reading your post, was this quote from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project:

“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts." - Marcus Aurelius

After years of too much time and energy spent caught in what seemed like a never-ending battle with food and my weight, I've come to really appreciate the incredible power of my thoughts.

I try to never think of food as "dangerous." I tell myself that it's just food and try to make the best choice I can in each and every situation. But life is too short to worry about every meal!

I like to cook and prefer to eat at home most of the time. But living in the real world means eating out, especially if you are married to a man who manages restaurants and eating for free is one of the perks of the job and you have a Mom who loves to treat you to lunch out at least once a week!)

I have a few personal rules to guide me: No bread unless it's really really good and worth the calories. Veggies instead of fries, again unless they are really good, and no more than 3 bites of dessert.

Like Mary B, I prefer to go to the little ethnic places, where I can eat things I wouldn't make at home and the portions are more reasonable.

My husband and I are also in the habit of sharing an appetizer and entree, which helps a lot!

I also avoid the chains and will splurge at the little authentic, "made from scratch" places. I frequent sushi restaurants. I choose multigrain rice (just found a new place that makes their multigrain rice from quinoa, mixed beans, black and brown rice). When I'm avoiding carbs I get the seafood (sashimi) salad with the dressing on the side. Where I live, there's a sushi restaurant every few blocks, which is nice. So if you're wondering where to eat out and like seafood, try sushi. Lots of healthier choices (wakame salad, go mayae, sahimi-just try and avoid rolls with mayonnaise and sauces.) I also love going out for Vietnamese and I'll get the vegetable Pho Soup where the rice noodles would be my splurge but better for you than a whole bunch of fatty choices offered at other places!

Since starting The Daniel Plan (12/31/13) I have not had the desire to eat out. When I do, I plan to drink plenty of water beforehand as well as a snack of either fruits and veggies or healthy nuts/seeds - to fill me up. My plan is to make eating out a time of fellowship more so than food.

Wow. Interesting comments from those who say they actually prefer the food they cook at home to food at a restaurant. You either have really bad restaurants in your area or you're all gourmet chefs! I love discovering new restaurants or trying out the latest hot spot! I'm hardly a foodie, but its fun to check out yelp and find out if a place is as good as everyone says it is. I try to eat better at home during the week and then go out to eat on the weekend. Of course it helps to have some kind of balance--my stomach will feel a lot better if I have a small salad before eating something more indulgent for example. Most of the time, eating out is a treat--something fun to do during the week, so I'll focus on the enjoyment of it, rather than feel guilty for eating too many calories. Tomorrow is a new day to get back on the bandwagon!

Very rarely eat out.Have high BP and the sodium in most things is off the charts. On the rare occasions I do go out, I always say "I can make better!"

I don't go out to eat very often. When I do, I don't stress about the food. If I'm out to eat, I want to have a pleasurable experience. If that means eating fries then I eat fries. If it means eating a salad, I eat a salad.

We eat pretty healthfully at home so I feel that when we go out to dinner, which is maybe twice a month, I can eat whatever I want-including sharing a dessert with hubby.

I never eat out, nor do I ever have the desire to... but just had to comment about how much we are influenced by images. I have no interest in fries (unless I am making them at home without any oil) but making that a black & white photo definitely makes it seem unappealing or at least not tempting.

Studies show that salt is the basis of all ADDICTION including drug addiction. The same part of the brain is affected. The peril of eating out is our addiction to salt, sugar and fat.

Restaurants use a lot of sugar, fat and salt to make all their foods more in line with addictions they know people have. Successful restaurants hide sugar in their recipes and it is one secret that keeps us coming back. People are even putting salt on their cookies and in their coffee feeding three addictions at once, fat, sugar and salt.

Many foods that claim to be low fat have copious amount of sugar abd salt. Check out the labels on salad dressing, low fat but high in sugar.

So your salad, although a better choice, has a lot of sugar and salt in the dressing even if it is low fat.

A better choice, and I love this, is vinegar and olive oil or simply lemon. Lemon and vinegar have a way of releasing the salty flavors naturally present in all foods.

Foods high in potassium help to avert salt cravings.

It's really simple if you pre-plan. When I know I'm going out for a meal, I go on line and start looking. Some websites will also have their nutritional content. I also find most establishments to be quite accommodating.

Great post snack girl!! First thing I do is check to see if the restaurant is listed in my etools. If so I look around for something within my points range. First thing I do when I get to a restaurant that isn't listed is check out the vegetarian options. I do the best I can. Also, when eating out I ignore the bread basket, and eat the lowest point foods first, saving the best for last and by then I'm not as ravenous. I've also been known to order wine or a white wine spritzer. When I used to drink diet coke I'd order a diet coke and rum because apparently it's a very low carb beverage. Not to change the subject but I eat lunch out a lot since I don't always pack it for lunch. The day I bought tuna fish in a cup that comes with sliced cucumbers. The tuna fish salad was heaped up over the top of the little cup since I know the little cup is 4 oz, but when it's heaping it's anyone's guess, nonetheless, I scraped the excess off and threw it in the trash!! And I was really hungry!!!! Yeah for me.

Eating out can sometimes be challenging especially if you are trying to make healthy choices. Most of the craved dishes came from fast foods which are really not healthy and will just give you another problem of gaining more weight.

The problem of halving your meal is that it is still too big! Pay attention to calories and sodium. I usually have 3 meals out of one restaurant meal.

My eating out strategy is to (when possible) look at the menu online before I get to the restaurant and decide what I'm going to eat. That way the decision gets made when I'm not starving or being influenced by yummy smells or what people around me are eating. The decision comes from my head, not my stomach.

When I eat out I ask server to bring me Doggie Bag with my meal, I put half in box, so I am not tempted to eat the whole thing. I am a member of the "clean plate society" ~ via my mom.

Just rec'd this short video ''Food'' from Organic Consumers Assoc. Its short but not sweet, nice reminder for most of us savvy consumers. I'm trying harder this year to kick all meat!

Oops, forgot link to video ''Food''. It's a good summary of the sourcing of our food supply. Its also why I try to eat locally and not support chain restaurants or supermarkets.

I am on Weight Watchers and use my weekly extra points for a once a week out to eat meal. I let myself order whatever I want and I don't feel guilty. The key to this working with my eating plan is that it is only ONE meal and I don't bring home leftovers. I have done this for a year now and have lost 80 lbs. It works for me because it allows me to have whatever I've been craving all week, and I enjoy it with no guilt because it is not going overboard. I too order a salad with my burger....but eat those fries too! :)

Diane von Ryn - couldn't agree more with your comment!

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