Dine Out on a Diet: Your Restaurant Survival Guide
Restaurant Reality Check
You've cut back on swanky restaurants to save cash, but a third of you aren't willing to give up casual dinners out, a recent study reveals. Asking for the sauce on the side and skipping the bread basket are old-school diet tricks. It's not just what you order but how long you wait and even how you pay that makes you overeat. Use our 5-step plan to enjoy your next dinner out -- and still stick to your diet.Step 1: Call ahead.
Watching everyone else chow down while you wait 45 minutes for a table isn't just annoying; it can also make you eat more. "The sight and smell of food stimulates the body to begin the digestive process," says Susan Roberts, PhD, author of The Instinct Diet. "Your stomach muscles relax and insulin is secreted, lowering blood-sugar levels to make you feel hungry." The fix: Book a reservation, and arrive on time to reduce your wait and the amount of food you see and smell before sitting down, suggests Joanne Lichten, PhD, RD. author of Dining Lean. Request a quiet table while you're at it. Diners who sit near a TV, a busy host's station, or the bar may consume more calories, because they have trouble focusing on their food, Lichten says. Dining alone? Don't bring a book; it'll just distract you from the meal and lead to overeating. Instead, pick a task that won't require your full attention (jot down a to-do list, for example).Step 2: Take a bathroom break.
Meet a friend for dinner after a crazy day of back-to-back meetings and you'll be downing margaritas and mozzarella sticks before you even open the menu. "When you're anxious, your instincts tell you to reach for high-fat comfort foods to soothe yourself," says Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in Boulder, Colorado. So if you're feeling frazzled when you get to the restaurant, make a beeline for the ladies' room and take five to 10 deep breaths. "A stressed state of mind has a corresponding breathing pattern -- short, shallow, and irregular -- and so does a peaceful one -- regular, rhythmic, and deep," David explains. Deep breaths trick the brain into thinking you're relaxed, and when you're calm you're more likely to make informed, rational decisions.
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