Thank you Dr. Sara Gottfried for your insight into eating out
and 6 strategies you have learned and adopted over time.
Who doesn’t love restaurants? The average American family spends 40% of their food budget on foods from restaurants. Typically, eating out adds 134 calories per day to the diet.
Someone else serves you, then does the dishes! What’s not to love? Several things.
Restaurant food is served in large portions. Most use foods that are not organic, and meats from concentrated animal feeding operations. Many use industrial seed oils. There are exceptions in many areas, but it is best to do your research before dining at a location if you are detoxing or limiting processed foods from your diet.
The good news is there specific ways that you can eat out without gaining weight and accelerating aging. It starts with mindful eating.
In a study at the University of Texas at Austin, 35 women between the ages of 40 and 59 were shown how to approach restaurant eating mindfully. The specific group of women were in perimenopause and menopause, a time when women tend to gain weight, particularly in the belly, thereby raising the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Women enrolled in a six-week mindful eating program to learn how to manage food when eating out. After six weeks, women were eating 300 fewer calories after completing the program and lost 4 pounds, even though they weren’t trying to lose weight (the control group lost no weight). Of course, calories aren’t everything – calories matter but hormones matter more. Mindfulness helps both.
As you might imagine, mindful eating program consisted of six weekly two-hour group sessions that reviewed the basics of weight management, planning meals at favorite restaurants, and how to visualize portion size. While this study showed a benefit, another study of 194 adults followed for 5.5 months showed weight loss in obese subjects, though not statistically significant. However, the mindful eaters had lower fasting glucose and better lipids (triglyceride-to-HDL ratio).
Key strategies Dr. Sara Gottfried's supports and practices herself:
1. Plan for the meal during the day. Make you other meals during the day more rich in vegetables so that you get plenty of fiber and your blood sugar is stable.
2. Limit meal skipping, which may lead to low blood sugar in some individuals and may cause overeating.
3. Prepare. Many restaurants provide menus online. Read online menus to choose a restaurant that matches your needs, determine a couple options before you arrive, and generally set the tone for your dining out experience.
4. Slow down. Don’t feel like a nag when you clarify what’s in the salad dressing, how they cook the fish, and what ingredients are used on the vegetables. When the food arrives, savor each bite paying attention to the aroma, texture, and taste. This practice has been shown to increase enjoyment and satiety with smaller portion sizes.
5. Mindful of Portions. Control the amount of salad dressing and sauces by requesting it on the side. I find that salads at restaurant use double the dressing that I use at home. So I toss my own salad with 2 tablespoons (approximately 1 ounce) of dressing – and I make sure the dressing does not have sugar, gluten, or dairy in it – since all are addictive and serve as my red-line foods.
6. Don't forget to breath. Take two deep breaths when your food arrives. We know that people eat 40% more when dining with friends. We get distracted. Turn your attention back to the food by taking a deep inhale of the steaming food for a 4 count, hold your breath for 7 count, and exhale for an 8 count. It only takes two breaths to switch your nervous system back to “rest and digest.” When you’re calm and present, you’re more aware of hunger, stomach fullness, and avoidance of food triggers.
The University of Texas Mindful Eating Program takes it one step further and defines mindful eating in the following way:
- Experiencing the positive and nurturing benefits of food preparation and eating.
- Choosing to eat food that tastes good to you and nourishes your body.
- Using all your senses to explore, savor and taste each meal.
- Learning to listen to physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your food choices.
- Slowing down throughout your day to “check-in” to realize the benefits and effects of eating on your body and emotions.
Most of all, mindful eating means that you are fully present to the pleasure of eating. Savor it. Learn a new way to eat out.