Avoid These Casual Dining Traps
Thought fast food was bad for you? Turns out those casual dining chains like Applebees, Friday’s, Chilis, Olive Garden and others can actually be worse than fast food. Even a salad at casual dining restaurant can have more calories than a Big Mac!
One of the toughest parts about sticking to a diet and eating healthy is avoiding restaurant traps. Eating out is necessary for people who travel often or have an active social life that requires meeting for meals. For some of us, business lunches with clients are part of our jobs. And while eating at a restaurant can require careful planning, there are ways to do it without falling prey to the problems of restaurant eating.
Don’t laugh, but a casual dining chain restaurant can be a dangerous place for those trying to stay healthy. Here are some of the traps to be aware of and avoid when dinning at restaurants.
The Portion Trap
The most obvious restaurant trap is portion sizes. If you compare today’s portion sizes to those from fifty years ago you’ll see that today restaurants serve almost twice as much on the plate. If you’re someone who usually cleans your plate, this is a set up for diet failure.
In order to avoid this trap, you’ll need to be aware that you probably only need to eat about half of what you’re served. Many people find success by asking for to-go containers as soon as their meal is served. They package up half of their meal and then eat the rest later.
You may also find a friend who enjoys the same dish and split it. In general eating half of what you’re served will help you to stay within the recommended calories for a single meal. Beyond portion size, though, there are other problems.
For example, restaurant dishes are known for containing much higher calories from fat than something you’d make at home. But you can look for ways to manage the calories by making good choices from the menu.
The Salad Trap
Salads may seem like a logical choice. After all, salads are healthy and low in calories, right? Wrong. Gourmet salads often have astronomical calorie and fat counts due to rich dressings, croutons, fried meats and other unhealthy ingredients. As mentioned before, many salads severed at the casual dining chains have more calories that burgers at fast food places. Since when is a Whopper a better choice than a salad?
Some restaurants have a special menu for people looking to eat healthier and lose weight. If the restaurant you’re in doesn’t have a special menu, you can look for grilled proteins and steamed vegetables as an option.
The Server Trap
Casual dining chains train their servers to increase profit by pushing appetizers and drinks on your table. Be aware and expect your server to push extras on you and be prepared to say no. Not only will you eat less, but those extras can quickly add up and double your tab.
The dessert menu is another money maker and big trap for people who are trying to diet. In general plan ahead to skip the dessert so you’re not blindsided by the server.
This may sound silly, but have a healthy snack before you visit a casual dining restaurant so you’re not tempted.
The Ambiance Trap
The ambiance in a restaurant can also make it a challenge to stick to your diet. A quiet restaurant where you can have conversation can help you slow down your eating and help you stay on track.
At a loud restaurant, and after a drink or two, you may not notice that you and your friends have emptied the complimentary bread basket or bowl of chips a few times before your meal arrives. You may want to ask your server to take the bread and chips away so that the temptation can be avoided.
Keep the drinking to a minimum. Alcohol can sabotage your diet plan, eating healthy doesn’t seem so important any more. The casual dining restaurant is the absolute worst place you can be to have a day off from your diet.
Casual dining traps can make it hard to stick to your healthy food plan, but by making good choices you can enjoy eating out without suffering from weight gain. You may also want to consider hosting dinner parties at home so allow you to enjoy the social part of eating with friends without the restaurant traps.