8 Easy Steps to Eat Better
How to Stay on TrackBe a restaurant snob.
You already know to pick grilled over fried; ask for less cream, butter, or oil in your food; and request that half your meal be wrapped in a doggie bag. But there are other smart ways to prevent dining out from blowing your good intentions, says Katherine Tallmadge, RD, the author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations. Try her strategies:
Keep an open mind. Italian food is heavy, Asian is light -- right? Not so fast. "With Thai or Chinese, there's a lot of deep frying and also tons of oil in stir-fries," Tallmadge explains. Italian dishes like grilled fish or pasta primavera, though, tend to use less. Open to something new? "Try Vietnamese, which is full of grilled meats and vegetables, soups, and salads," Tallmadge says.
Go out to lunch. "If you're going to indulge, do it midday rather than in the evening," Tallmadge advises. "That way, you can cut back at dinner to even out your calories for the day. Bonus: Lunch is usually cheaper, so you can afford a nicer place. Speaking of which...
Spend smarter. With any cuisine, fancier often means healthier. "Higher-end places use good-quality ingredients in smaller amounts, while midlevel and lower-end places frequently overuse lower-quality meats and cheeses in huge portions," Tallmadge says. Save your cash for one outing a week to a swanky spot instead of three stops at a chain.
Split up your order. Ask to start with a salad or vegetable soup -- and eat it -- before choosing your main course. "Doing this will help you make a better decision," Tallmadge says. In all likelihood, you may only be hungry enough for an appetizer rather than a full entrée.Weigh in weekly.
Some experts claim that the scale keeps dieters accountable; others believe it makes them frustrated, demoralized, and focused on pounds instead of wellness. The bottom line: How often you should take a reading comes down to knowing yourself, says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center's Weight Management Center and a FITNESS advisory board member. "Research indicates that once a week is good and once a day is probably even better for some people. But if seeing a number that's even slightly off makes you want to throw up your hands -- especially toward a box of Girl Scout cookies -- use a different gauge, like the fit of your favorite jeans.
To benefit from weighing in, pick one day and time each week to do it, like first thing in the morning, when you're naked and after you've hit the bathroom, when most people typically weigh the least. If you don't like the readout, consider the reasons it might be up: Got your period? Had salty food for dinner last night? If none of those applies, look at where you stand for the month. "Plus or minus less than two pounds during the course of a month is essentially weight-neutral. You're doing great; you've discovered how to maintain," Fernstrom says.Pull out of a diet tailspin.
Many women are prone to all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to food. You know, you do great all week, then one big cupcake at the office birthday party and, well, the day is shot, so you may as well order greasy takeout for dinner. "People don't gain weight from one diet lapse, but rather from how they respond to it," says FITNESS advisory board member Kathy McManus, RD, director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Instead of feeling like a failure and giving up on the rest of the day, shake it off and move on." The way to do that is not by punishing yourself with celery for dinner. "Just set one specific, positive goal for the next day, like eating two pieces of fruit," McManus says, then carry on as usual. "You'll be surprised how accomplishing one simple thing can restore your courage and put you back on track for success."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2012.
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