Question of the Week

May 2, 2005


How often do you eat out? At school? In your car? Drive-through? Restaurants?

"'Many people eat out two of their three daily meals, and they are more likely to gain weight because they eat larger portions and clean their plates...'"

No matter how often people eat out, those who are trying to eat in a healthful, yet economical, manner may find it difficult to do both.

"Super-size this and super-size that. When eating out, it seems so economical to choose the larger size. ... Temptations such as super-size portions, luscious desserts and value-meal combos can quickly drive up fat content and load on unneeded calories. Be aware of what constitutes a normal serving size. A baked potato in a restaurant, for example, might be the size of a shoe, but one serving, according to the Food Guide Pyramid, is about the size of a computer mouse. Learn to recognize the difference, and you'll avoid a lot of extra calories. ... "

With portion sizes growing far beyond serving sizes, how can someone who goes to a restaurant -- or picks up a value meal to eat on the run -- know where to stop?

"'A good general approach is to eat half of everything, including dessert,' she says. 'You might even ask for a takeout box as soon as the meal is placed in front of you. Before you begin to eat put half of the meal into the box and set it aside. That way you won't be tempted to keep eating more than is reasonable.' It is perfectly OK to order from the appetizer menu so that you will be served smaller portions. You might add a salad so that you have something to eat while everyone else is still eating. Concentrate on vegetable and protein dishes that are not deep-fried. It's easy to eat too much rice, both steamed and fried, as well as noodles. 'If the restaurant puts bread or chips on the table and it's a problem for you to control how much you are eating, ask that they be taken away,' Fields says.

But getting all that extra food is a better deal, right?

"Super-sizing at fast food restaurants adds calories. If you are still tempted to go for the extra-large meal, a new report at last week's experimental biology meeting in San Diego may change your mind. University of Wisconsin researchers said the initial 67 cents saved from just one extra-large meal was offset by $1.57 spent on medical costs. By the way, that super-sized meal also has an additional 400 calories and 36 grams of fat."

If super-sizing isn't a good idea, then what is?

"Choose a 'small' or 'medium' portion. This includes main dishes, side dishes, and beverages. Order an item from the menu instead heading for the 'all-you-can-eat' buffet. If main portions at a restaurant are larger than you want, try one of these strategies to keep from overeating:
* Order an appetizer or side dish instead of an entrée.
* Share a main dish with a friend.
* If you can chill the extra food right away, take leftovers home in a 'doggy bag.'
* When your food is delivered, set aside or pack half of it to go immediately.
* Resign from the 'clean your plate club' -- when you've eaten enough, leave the rest."

Questions of the Week:
How often do you eat out? How are your food choices different at home verses when you are at school? Ordering fast food? Eating at a restaurant? How can you make healthy and economical food choices when eating away from home? How is this different (or is it different at all) when you are getting food to bring home?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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