We survived a quick trip to Las Vegas this past weekend, where the eating environment is rife with land mines for Baby Boomers and seniors! From buffets to free drinks to celebrity restaurants, it’s definitely “consumer beware” when you’re talking about healthy eating.
And I returned home to discover two more studies that add to the mounting evidence documenting the perils of dining out.
The first study, published in the journal Appetite, looked at how much food people ate while in the company of an overweight diner. Researchers found that college students consumed:
–32% more food (pasta) and
–43% less salad
when in the presence of an actress dressed in an outfit that added 50 pounds to her weight than in the presence of the same woman without the suit.
The take-home here: pay attention to cues in your eating environment while dining with others. Researchers speculate that if you feel thinner than someone else, you allow yourself to eat more.
A second study was published recently in the International Journal of Obesity. Looking at data from 8,300 adult Americans, researchers found that people who eat six or more meals away from home per week had:
–A higher body mass index (BMI)
–Lower levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL)
–Lower blood concentrations of certain nutrients
The take-home: restaurant meals are notoriously high in calories, fats, and sodium (especially salads, which at first glance look so innocent!)–largely due to gigantic portion sizes. And when you dine out, you have no control over the ingredients or cooking methods of your selected items.
So when dining out cannot be avoided (as in a vacation where you’re staying in a hotel), I always fall back on these tried-and-true guidelines:
- Bring snacks that can go into your hotel room refrigerator (lowfat yogurt, fruit) or do not require refrigeration (protein bars, nuts, homemade peanut butter and crackers packages).
- Consume a protein source at each meal and at snacktime.
- Do not skip snacks, as they keep blood sugar levels from dropping, and prevent that uncontrollable, famished feeling at mealtime.
- Have a plan at mealtime and stick with it. Don’t let other people’s comments or choices (or weight, as the above study indicates) influence your decision.
- Order off the appetizer menu, split an entrée, or ask for a “doggie bag” with your meal and pack away half of it before you’re tempted to eat the whole thing.
- Customize your order: ask for grilled meat, poultry or fish; request salad dressing, cheese, sauces, or sour cream on the side,
- Water is a great beverage of choice.
- Skip dessert or ask for a clean spoon to share a bite of your dining partner’s sweet indulgence.
And of course, walk and exercise as much as you can whenever you’re on vacation!
For more information about fitness, see my free ebook.