The Guilt-Free Guide to Going Out to Eat: 5 Tips for Mindful Eating
Restaurant meals do not have to be packed with calories, salt, sugar, white flour, and artery-damaging saturated fat to taste good. For nearly four decades, thousands of guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, have learned how delicious and doable healthy dining can be.
Here are 5 mindful eating tips taught by the registered dietitians, doctors, and chefs at Pritikin:
1. As soon as you sit down, ask for a green salad instead of the bread basket.
There it is, tucked temptingly in linen, its aromas wafting up. Before the menus arrive, three or four slices (and about 700 calories) have been eaten, and you’ve yet to order dinner! Even worse is dipping the bread in olive oil. Like a sponge, it soaks up every drop so that the calorie concentration in your bread is the same as gulp… German chocolate cake! And this is an appetizer?
Instead, order a big, fresh green salad, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side. To curb your calorie intake (all oils, including olive oils, are the most calorie-dense foods on earth) use a bit of olive oil, just a teaspoon or two. Or be adventurous and see what else might work as a snappy, low-calorie dressing. For example do you see fresh salsa on the menu? Ask that a little of it be delivered on the side with your salad.
2. Split entrees.
In today’s world of “super-sizing,” many entrees can easily feed two people. If the entree is solely yours, have the chef split it before it leaves the kitchen, wrapping the half you don’t eat in a “to-go” bag for you to take home. Order an extra salad and/or vegetable side dish to make a complete and satisfying meal.
3. Go easy on alcohol.
Any calorie-containing drinks, from soft drinks to fruit juices to alcohol, are discouraged by the doctors and dietitians at the Pritikin Longevity Center because numerous studies have found that people don’t compensate for the calories they’re drunk by eating less food.
Bottom Line: Calorie-rich drinks lead to weight gain. If you normally eat a bowl of pasta, a green salad, and grilled seafood on alcohol-free evenings, you’ll eat that same pasta, salad, and seafood on nights with alcohol. So automatically, you’ve tallied up an extra 200 to 300 calories or more.
Order a nice bottle of wine, if you’d like, but share the caloric wealth. Pour a glass for everyone at the table. And order for yourself a bottle of mineral water. Enjoy three or four sips of the mineral water for every sip of wine. You’ll cut down dramatically on the total amount of calories you take in.
4. Constantly ask yourself, until it becomes a habit, “Am I eating slowly?”
It takes about 20 minutes for food to reach the small intestine. When that happens, chemical signals are sent back to the brain to say, “You can stop eating now. You’ve had enough.” If we eat too fast, we can easily put too much food into our bodies before the satiety signals are received. Mindful eating gives our satiety signals a chance to kick in before we’ve overeaten.
“Mindful eating is all about slowing down, actually seeing our food, taking in its aromas, and appreciating its colors and beauty. It’s about giving food and the act of eating our full attention,” explains psychologist and lifestyle-change specialist Dr. Coral Arvon, Director of Behavior Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “The results can be priceless. Mindful eating not only brings back pleasure, it brings back control. Because we’re aware of every single bite, and celebrating each one, we’re more aware of how much we’re eating, and we know when to stop. We feel good at stopping. Both physically and emotionally, we’re satisfied.”
5. Order a healthy dessert.
Not ordering dessert when everyone else does is usually a mistake. Order fresh berries, fruit cocktail, or a little sorbet with some fresh fruit to avoid “tasting” from other people’s high-fat and sugar-laden choices. Or, instead of ordering dessert at the restaurant, get some exercise after dinner and walk together to an ice cream parlor for a nonfat frozen yogurt.