If you and your friends are like most Americans, the results of eating out are not favorable to your health. Why is that? Most food eaten away from home is high in hydrogenated fat and calories. People tend to overindulge when they dine out, and eat healthier when at home. If you were eating plenty of different fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at restaurants, most likely there would be no problem. Studies show this is not the case! Restaurant food typically is more calorie dense — meaning more calories per bite — than good ol' mom or dad's (or even your own for that matter) cooking.


In the United States, portion sizes have gone through the roof. Food is not particularly expensive for most restaurants, so they serve us what we have come to expect — LOTS OF IT! People tend to eat more when served larger portions. And, most people aren't training for the triathlon or doing heavy manual labor, enough to burn off all the calories.


Can you believe that in the 1950s, Coca-Cola was packaged in 6.5-ounce bottles? No one even makes those anymore. Twelve-ounce cans came next, and now you can get a super-sized soft drink at a fast food restaurant containing 42 oz. That's more than one liter! The original Coke was 81 calories. The super-sized beverage is 410 calories (it would be more, but you get lots of ice included).


If you go to a fast food restaurant, a regular hamburger weighs in at almost four ounces and contains 280 calories. That's fine, but not many people just eat a plain burger. Compare it with a Big Mac at 7-½ ounces and 590 calories. Super size your fries and end up with 400 calories more than a small order. So, a well-known hamburger, giant fries, and a double-grande beverage total 1610 calories — almost a day's worth of calories for an average sized woman. We're just talking fast food here, because most people can relate, and the items are standard around the world.


Visit your local deli or pizza parlor. The size of sandwiches and pizzas are huge. Pizzas come with stuffed crusts. Do we really need more cheese in the crust? At an extra 120 calories per slice, probably not. Many delis make sandwiches with six ounces of meat or more. At home, most people would use three or four ounces.


Breakfast on the run adds up like you would not believe! The average bagel in New York City is anywhere from four to six ounces (translate: this equals 4 to 6 slices of white bread). Add a "shmear" of cream cheese and grab a carton of juice, and you just had a breakfast of 750 - 900 calories. Most people don't even count this as "eating out."


In these examples, some of the foods (e.g., cheese, juice) have nutrients, but that is not always the case. Usually, extra calories eaten away from home are lower in fiber, calcium, and other important nutrients than foods eaten at home.


So, what is a person to do? First of all, if you dine out often, you can't view each meal as a license to eat mostly high fat, low nutrient foods. That attitude is okay if you eat out once a month, not ten times a week. Here are some tips if restaurants are part of your daily regimen:

  • Look for items that are baked, broiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled, without sauces — ask for sauces or dressings on the side.
  • Buy smaller portions when you have the choice — even if the larger sizes don't cost much more. Super sizing only benefits your waist, not your wallet.
  • Share with a friend.
  • If you are at a sit-down restaurant, forgo the appetizer, or order a salad or a non-creamy soup.
  • Ask for the breadbasket to be removed.
  • Think about getting an appetizer as a main dish.
  • Order a side of steamed or roasted veggies.
  • If you are served a large portion, plan on bringing half of the food home to have for another meal.

View your restaurant dining as a convenience. You are paying NOT to have to food shop, cook, and clean up. You need not have to pay with the side effects of overindulgence.  Bon appetit!


SCD adapted from:  http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/2101.html



 (Kay's Note:  Yes, SCDers can successfully eat out!!!)