Planning ahead can save hundreds of calories!
Perhaps the biggest hurdle people have to overcome when embarking on and sticking to a weight loss diet is simply feeding themselves. For busy families, eating out often seems more a necessity than a convenience but a meal in a restaurant averages 298 calories more per meal than a meal eaten at home. (1 ) That means a person could gain a pound every 11 – 12 times he or she eats out. Why are restaurant meals so much higher in calorie? It's the super size extra value mentality most restaurants have adopted in order to generate more business.
The more is better approach to food can perhaps be traced back to one restaurant: McDonald's.
It started with David Wallerstein, a movie theater owner in the 60's and early 70's. Trying to generate more income he tried a variety of two for one specials and combo deals to try to increase his high profit margin soda and popcorn sales. What he realized is that while people don't want to appear piggish by carrying around two boxes of popcorn but they would shell out more money for a larger box of popcorn or cup of soda. The additional popcorn or soda pop increased Wallerstein's cost by very little but he could raise the price quite a bit. By the mid 70's, he was working for McDonalds and trying to convince Ray Kroc to apply the same principle to his sodas and fries, the beginning of the 'supersize' concept. This idea took off in the fast food markets and has even crept into to better dining restaurants where price increases were offset by larger plates holding the same sized entree, then filled with inexpensive fries.
Around this time there was also a McDonald's franchise owner by the name of Max Cooper who realized that by creating a system in which customers perceived they were getting more for less, he could get customers to buy more. For less than it would cost to buy the three items separately customers could get fries with their burger and Coke. McDonald's earned less per bag of fries but they sold a bag of fries to someone who may not otherwise have purchased them. This increased not just the amount a significant portion of customers spent per visit but also increased the number of customers and visits made by each customer as people are always looking for a better value.
About a decade later, in the late eighties, Ron Magruder, president of the Olive Garden restaurants, received a phone call from a dissatified customer. It wasn't the quality of the food or service, it wasn't the cleanliness of the restaurant or the prices he was complaining about, it was the size of the chairs. The caller, Larry, simply couldn't fit in a booth or any of the chairs available. Magruder, a heavy set gent himself, called the company that manufactured chairs for the chain and ordered oversized chairs, three for each Olive Garden in the nation. (2) The story might be funny if it the health problems experienced by the folks who sit in the larger chairs weren't so sad.
Fortunately, eating out doesn't necessarily have to doom you to being extra super sized. Know your serving sizes, split entrees with a friend or between meals, send baskets of bread and chips back to the kitchen before they even hit the table, stay away from non-nutritive foods like french fries and white rice - substitute veggies instead, take the burger off the bun, hold the cheese and order dressings and condiments on the side. Planning ahead both for meals to be eaten at home and leftovers that can be used in another healthy dish and knowing your nutritional facts before ordering when eating out can make a huge difference in the number of calories consumed. Grill enough chicken, shrimp or even beef for dinner one night and to toss on a salad for lunch the next day, check the internet for nutritional info before heading to the restaurant.
Dottie's Weight Loss Zone has an extensive listing of restaurant, many will be listed by Weight Watcher's points. If you are not familiar with the point system, basically what you need to know is depending on your weight and activity level, you can eat between 18 and 28 points a day.
dietfacts.com has the nutrition information for many restaurants.
Chipotle andThe Pita Pit both have a nutrition calculator which is the neatest thing. You can enter your entree with all condiments and extras and get a total nutritional breakdown including calorie count.
1. “What You Really Eat!” People Magazine Vol. 71 January 12. 2009, P. 70-72
2. Crister, Greg, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003