Dine Out on a Diet: Your Restaurant Survival Guide
Decoding the MenuStep 3: Read between the lines.
Succulent herb-crusted pork chops. Velvety ricotta cheesecake. Is your mouth watering yet? Descriptive adjectives like luscious and juicy are all over restaurant menus and can actually make you order more, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. In one of his studies, diners were 27 percent more likely to get dessert when it was called German Black Forest double-chocolate cake instead of plain old chocolate cake. Practice picking out these adjectives on a menu the next time you dine out (sizzling, creamy, and rich are a few of the most popular). The more easily you recognize them, the less they'll sway you. Avoid condiment catastrophes. "SOS" (sauce on the side) is one of the first rules you learn in Weight Loss 101, but it may actually up your calorie intake. "A 2-tablespoon serving of dressing looks pretty skimpy, so many restaurants triple or quadruple the amount they send out separately," says Edward Abramson, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University at Chico and author of Body Intelligence. Translation: You could be adding 200 to 300 extra calories to your meal. A smarter strategy? Order condiments on the side; when they arrive, measure one spoonful onto your plate. Then send that tempting little container of ranch dressing, mayo, or cheese sauce back to the kitchen with your waiter.Step 4: Pay with cold, hard cash.
Walk into your favorite boutique with a purseful of plastic and you're likely to come out with shoes and jewelry to go along with that dress you'd planned on buying. Research shows that it works the same way with food: In a review of 100,000 restaurant purchases conducted by Visa, people who paid for their food with a credit card spent up to 30 percent more than those who used cash. "When you pay on credit, you lose sight of the cost of the meal, so you're more likely to splurge on extras such as appetizers and cocktails," David explains. Bad news, since both can add dollars to your bill and hundreds of calories to your meal. If you can't pay with cash, determine a reasonable amount to spend beforehand (one that won't allow you to order an entree and all the extras) and vigilantly stick to that number.
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