Eating out seems to be perfectly designed to make people fat, and we're eating out more than ever. Restaurants serve large portions. The official serving size for a soda is 1 cup. A Double Gulp from 7-Eleven has 8-times that amount. When people are served more food, they're more likely to eat more food. Also, restaurant foods are often calorie dense - they pack a lot of calories in less space - which makes it more likely that you'll eat more calories. Studies show that kids eat about twice as many calories when they eat out as when they eat at home.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, the host of Smart-Mouth.org) has found that restaurant meals often have half a day's calories or more. Everyone knows that dessert is a splurge, but CSPI has found that a slice of cake, a sundae, or other dessert often packs the calories of a whole meal.
Restaurants make it hard for you to know what's in their food. With the exception of large chains like McDonald's, few restaurants give you nutrition information about their foods, and almost none provide the info right on the menu or menu board, where it would be most useful.
Here are a few useful restaurant strategies:
* Be careful of what you eat, as well as how much you eat.
* Watch out for hidden fats.
* Look for "healthy" or "lite" items on the menu.
* Remember that liquid calories add up. Choose smaller size sodas or drink water or seltzer (soda water).
* If the menu is vague, ask your server for more details.
* Don't be shy about asking for changes. It's your money, ask for what you want. Ask for the sauce on the side, that a food be grilled instead of fried, or that fatty toppings such as cheese, butter or sour cream be left off.
* Use a doggie bag. Take home half of what you're served and you save calories, fat, -- and money.
* Beware of buffets. You can get healthy choices from all-you-can-eat salad and breakfast bars, but be careful not to overeat to feel you're getting your money's worth.
* Eat out less often.
* Be an advocate. If you ask often enough, maybe the restaurant will offer 1% milk, low-fat lunch meat, fruit, or whole-wheat bread.
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