Healthy Eating Out

Dodging the Dinner Disaster!

By Fiona Bramzell - November 2007.

An invitation to dinner used to be something to look forward to. These days it can fill you with dread! Why? Well, it’s a minefield out there and with a lack of nutritional information to guide us, a few innocent dinners out can blow your diet sky high.

For those of us who have even the slightest idea about healthy eating, it is obvious which foods should be avoided at all costs. An appetizer that consists of pieces of battered and deep-fried cheese does not exactly scream ‘Jenny Craig’, does it? So, you do the best you can, navigate the menu hunting down what you think are the healthy options.

Now, however, it seems, things might not be as they appear. As highlighted recent media reports, some of our most popular restaurants are very loathe to divulge just what is in their meals, and more to the point, are unwilling or unable to provide nutritional breakdowns, when requested. The Canadian Food and Restaurant Association (CFRA) has made much of the fact that they do ask restaurants to provide such information, but at this point in time it is on a voluntary basis, not enforced.

And just try to find the info on the CFRA’s website! It took me about 10 minutes of navigating the site before I stumbled upon the subject, which was hiding somewhere amongst the ‘consumer’ section. With a little more research, I was able to find quite a significant number of U.S. fast food and casual dining establishments that offered nutritional information on their sites, but this has only been after much lobbying by certain groups and health advocates. And despite the reports of major adult and child obesity in North America, it seems that educating the public is not on the top of the industry’s list.

Even in the health-conscious state of California, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill making it compulsory for restaurants to provide full disclosure, calling it ‘unfair’ and ‘inflexible’.

So, knowing that the odds are low in actually finding out what is in the food on your plate, how does one go about ensuring that a seemingly innocent meal at your favourite little bistro doesn’t just stick to your ribs but also your belly, thighs and bum?

Be a Nice Kid and Share

It’s what you were always told when young, so now put it into practice. If there is an appetizer that you simply must try, share it with your companion. Or, order a couple of apps to share instead of an entrée.

Size Does Matter!

I’m talking portion control, people! Arm yourself with the knowledge of what ‘normal’ portions looks like by checking out Canada’s Health Guide website. Many people are surprised to see how a regular portion measures up against the supersized amounts served in restaurants. So, when you get the meal, cut it down to what you know is more realistic and either leave the rest, or to get temptation out the way, put it straight in a doggy bag (no, not for a late night snack later!) And, talking of supersizing, it makes sense to banish these words from your vocabulary right now!

Bring on the Substitutes!

Banish those bad guys to the bench. Most restaurants will be - or at least should be - happy to accommodate any substitutions that the customer wants to make, the obvious ones being salad, baked potato or rice as a side instead of fries, broth based soup instead of cream, vinaigrette dressing, or dressing on the side etc. If you just have to have fries, check to see if they offer the sweet potato version. Still greasy, but at least lower carbs than the white spuds.

Be Demanding

As with requesting substitutions, most full service restaurants will allow you to ask for a certain dish to be made in a particular way. Without getting too fussy about it and coming off like a difficult customer (and we all know what happens to their food, don’t we?), ask your server how the dish is prepared and if need be, make some changes.

It may not just be the amount of fat you’re concerned with. Many dishes are over salted, pushing sodium amounts up, so if this is a concern, ask that no extra salt is added. If your server doesn’t know how something is made, or the ingredients used, ask to speak to someone who does.

Do the ‘Sip and Switch’

Don’t forget liquid has calories too! A glass of wine alone can add over 100 calories to your meal, without even providing any nutrients! Sipping your drink not only makes it last longer, but looks a heck of a lot better than chugging it back anyway. Plus, alternating an alcoholic drink with a soft drink (preferably water or lo-cal) will save you from an expanding waistline and a pounding head the next day!

Finally, never forget that dining is a pleasure. Eat slowly, savor every bite, and never feel guilty about the occasional splurge. Being happy and enjoying life is just as nourishing for the soul as good food is to your body!

Looking for Unbiased Info on Dieting?

By Suzanne MacNevin - November 2007.

At first glance you'd think that going to YouTube and watching testimonials on dieting would be a good idea on how to determine which diet is best.

But be forewarned. YouTube is as much about advertising a product as our old friend television.

It may not say the company's name on the clip you're watching, but the people who made it could be working for any number of diet related companies or products who are either trying to promote their own product or dish out bad news on their competition.

Take this Nurtisystem Vs Jenny Craig clip, which concludes that Nurtisystem is the cheaper alternative. Can you guess who paid for it?

In the increasingly deceptive and fast paced world of online advertising it is becoming more and more difficult to determine who the message is coming from and what their intentions are.

About the only thing on YouTube that guarentees the straight goods on dieting is comedy clips. You won't get a lot of information, but at least laughter is good for your body and soul.

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