>> Friday, March 28, 2014
As much as everyone enjoys eating out, it can really be hazardous for someone trying to lose weight, as restaurant meals are a notorious source of hidden calories and huge portions. As such, research is being done to try to figure out how best to cut back on those calories, while preserving the experience and taste sensation of eating out.
Research presented by Dr. Barbara Rolls and colleagues at the recent Obesity Society meeting asked chefs how they thought the industry could best help out to shave calories in light of the obesity epidemic.
These chefs were more interested in creating new inventions for calorie-savvy customers, rather than changing their existing dishes: 67% thought that introducing a new reduced-calorie item would sell well, whereas only 44% felt reducing the calories in an existing item would be successful.
They were also divided on whether putting calorie information on the menu would hurt or help sales. Interestingly, a separate study from New York examined the effects of mandatory calorie labeling, which went into effect in fast food restaurants in their city in July 2008. It was found that although some people said they were purchasing fewer calories based on this information, there was actually no difference in the average number of calories people purchased before vs after the implementation.
In a previous survey study, chefs also admitted that they ladle up serving sizes that are two to four times the size of recommended servings!
Where does this leave us? Well, it is unlikely that restaurant food will ever be uniformly 'safe' to eat from a dieters' point of view, regardless of how many reduced calorie options show up at your favorite spot. The definition of 'reduced calorie' or 'reduced fat' remains somewhat nebulous, and remember that low fat dishes often replace the missing fat with sugar, which can bring the calorie count right back up to equal or exceed the high fat version! The best thing to do when eating out, is to bring the following principles with you:
- Cut your portions in half. Ask your waiter to bring half your meal in a take away container before it even hits your plate.
- Do look for options labelled as 'reduced calorie' or 'low fat' on the menu, as they are probably better options - but cut your portion in half as well. Ask your waitress what changes were made in the dish to make it healthier.
- Opt for the dishes heavy in fresh greens, such as salads. Get your dressing on the side!
- Give the menu back to the waiter as soon as you have ordered, to avoid the temptation to order dessert!
- Choose restaurants that specialize in fresh food - this can be anything from sushi to Subway! It is harder to hide calories (eg cooking oils, sauces) in food that is fresh.
Dr. Sue © 2009