The New Rules of Eating Out
More Fat TrapsFat Trap: Small Plates
Just because there's less food on each plate doesn't mean that you'll consume fewer calories. "When you're sharing a bunch of tapas, it's easy to lose track of how much you've eaten," says Rachel Berman, RD, the director of health for About.com. "Psychologically, you don't feel full the way you do after finishing a regular meal off a single plate." Plus, many tapas are fried or drowned in oil, which can push their calorie count past 600.
Fix: When we order tapas, most of us end up with at least one dish too many," says Brian Wansink, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and the author of Slim by Design. Stick to two or three small plates per person and include protein, vegetables, and carbs. "Making it a balanced meal will help you feel more satisfied," Berman notes.Fat Trap: Veggie Entries
You know that eggplant Parm isn't waistline-friendly. But veggie mains that sound as if they're virtuous can also be bad news. "Eggplant stacks, for example, are usually layered with around five ounces of mozzarella, which will cost you 425 calories and 30 grams of fat," Berman says. Also, chefs tend to use more oil in vegetable dishes to make up for the missing fat in the main ingredient, says Jason Harrison, the executive chef of the Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Vail, Colorado.
Fix: Stick to veggie entries made with vegetables like cauliflower, sweet potatoes and parsnips, which absorb less fat than eggplant and mushrooms do, Berman says. And ask your server exactly how the vegetables have been prepared. Grilled and roasted are good, says Annie Somerville, the executive chef of Greens restaurant in San Francisco. So are soups with a vegetable-broth base, like minestrone.Fat Trap: Grain Mains
Farro, barley, and bulgur -- the hottest new salad ingredients since kale -- are good sources of protein and fiber. But the ratio of grains to veggies is often way out of whack, Berman says. "These dishes are listed as salads, but in terms of carbs and calories, they're on a par with a plate of pasta," she explains.
Fix: Grain salads tend to keep well for at least a couple of days, so eat half and save the rest for later, Berman advises. Or ask the waiter to bring out half your order served over mixed greens, and have the remainder boxed up.Fat Trap: Gluten-Free Desserts
"It's a common misconception that gluten-free automatically means healthy," says Rachel Begun, RD, a dietitian in Boulder, Colorado. In fact, gluten-free desserts are often just as decadent -- or even more so -- than their gluten-containing counterparts. That's because some pastry chefs use extra sugar or fat to offset changes in taste and texture, while others use dense nut flours, which are more caloric than the grain variety. Almond flour, for instance, has about 50 calories more per quarter cup than white flour.
Fix: "A piece of cake is a piece of cake, whether it's gluten-free or not," Begun says. "It's a treat that should be savored, since mindfulness can help you slow down and eat less." If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, look for naturally gluten-free treats such as meringue and sorbet, which tend to be lighter than baked goods.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2014.
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