Weight Loss Support - In Defense of Restaurants

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07-09-2009, 07:13 PM
I read so many people cutting restaurants out of their lives, and it makes me sad! I LOVE eating out, and do as much as possible! It doesn't have to be bad! You just have to choose carefully, and maybe ask for something to be cooked without butter, or served with dressing on the side. I'm constantly whipping my Blackberry out to look up calorie count, and in ethnic restaurants, I ask they waiter for advice on what's the least fattening, and they tell me. I love:

Raw oysters (only 10 calories each!)
Steamed clams (tobasco sauce instead of butter for dipping)
Crab legs!! (no butter)
Broiled fish without the butter
Salad with balsamic vinegar instead of dressing
Steamed vegetables
Sashimi, with seaweed salad at Japanese
Fish tikka (baked with spices) at Indian
Broccoli with oyster sauce (not much oil, please!) at Chinese

That's just a few, but even McDonald's has side salads, and packaged apple slices! I just feel bad, because I don't want you all missing out on fun, just because you're dieting!

07-09-2009, 07:19 PM
You know, I started going out less to restaurants when I realized that I could cook something at home that tasted BETTER, for fewer calories than the restaurant could, and cheaper! But I'm someone who LIKES cooking...for me, staying in is more fun than eating out. If I want a grilled chicken breast, I can marinate and grill it just was well as the restaurant, without the cost or the tip or the special ordering. And I am perfectly willing to take the 30 dollars I would spend on a restaurant meal and host a crowd of friends at my place...just as much fun, for me. But again, that's because I LIKE being home, and I like cooking.

I do go out (and order in a healthy way) for cuisines I don't know how to cook (like Thai. I've tried...never works!). You can make any menu out there work for you with a few substitutions and careful ordering (well, almost any...I've seen some pretty unhealthy menus in my time).

I never understood why people who don't like cooking avoid going out. Special ordering and etc. can make it nearly as healthy, and it's a nice break from the kitchen.

Of course, when given an opportunity to dine somewhere special, where I COULDN'T make the food taste better at home than the chef does, I go and enjoy every second of it. But then it's usually veering a bit from plan!

07-09-2009, 07:23 PM
I go out once a week but I use portion control when I do and make smarter choices. I like to cook though and I get tired of eating out if I do it too much. (I hate business trips where I have to eat out all the time)

07-09-2009, 07:24 PM
We don't go out much because we have two small children and it is not fun to go out with screaming, food throwing company, but I will have to agree with you about choices. Plus, you don't have to eat all that you are served. :)

07-09-2009, 07:27 PM
To me the biggest problem with restuarant food is the sodium.
Even if you pick something lower in fat, it's probably got close to your daily recommended sodium allowance.

07-09-2009, 07:47 PM
I would much rather be at home where I can cook a meal that I know what is going in it but that's me. I do have an occasional Subway turkey on wheat, no cheese, all the veggies but that's not really a restaurant I suppose :P

07-09-2009, 07:53 PM
There are certain restaurants I definitely patronize more due to nutritionals being publicized on the menu or at least a heart healthy designation or a lighter fare menu. If nothing else, I order a steak and salad and skip the bread basket. I think it's really up to the individual to ask about food preparation and alternative food choices. I frequently ask the waiter to give me extra veggies, egg beaters instead of eggs and other substitutions. On the other hand, sometimes you just gotta go have a pizza and beer with your honey!

07-09-2009, 07:54 PM
I have to go to restaurants on a semi regular basis during soccer season when my son's team travels. I suppose I could pack my lunch but with everything else I don't need the extra pain. Regardless, yes, I agree :) I love dining out and typically don't have an issue making smarter choices.

07-09-2009, 07:59 PM
To me the biggest problem with restuarant food is the sodium.
Even if you pick something lower in fat, it's probably got close to your daily recommended sodium allowance.

I TOTALLY agree with this. Even if you make "healthy" choices, the sodium counts are often off the charts!!!! Plus I enjoy cooking, so I don't mind making healthier versions of my favorite restaurant style foods at home.

I'm not saying I don't enjoy going out to eat though...the Cheesecake Factory has received many a dollar from me in my lifetime, including recently. :)

07-09-2009, 08:02 PM
I agree with Mandalinn that cooking at home can be so much more satisfying and fun. I try to find at least one or two new recipes a week that I can learn to make, which keeps things interesting for me. Today, it was healthy and low-fat chimichangas and a sweet-potato and cabbage slaw. If I had that food at a restaurant it would have been loaded with fat and sodium.

I do like going out to eat and we used to do it a lot, but I'm working hard to retrain my way of eating towards low calorie and since I can't count calories accurately enough with restaurant food, I go out much less often. When I do eat out I want it to be something that I don't cook at home. Like scallops or other seafood that I've yet to learn how to cook properly. I will never eat Mexican food out again, because I've learned that I do it so much better and with so much more spice. :devil:

07-09-2009, 08:15 PM
There are some really good restaurant choices that can even be affordable, but you have to know a bit about food, and be able to ask the right questions.

There's a small family-owned thai restaurant in our town that is very affordable. Some of the dishes are very low calorie, others not so much. We also learned that there's a lot of food available that isn't on the menu. We've become very friendly with the owners, so we try to eat at off-peak hours so we can sit and chat with the owner and her husband. We've learned alot about Hmong culture and southeast asian food, and they're as outgoing and chatty as my husband and I, so it's a lot of fun.

The owner (and only cook, except for the few dishes she lets her husband assist with) lost 30 lbs herself on Weight Watcher's, so she's sympathetic to my attempts to eat healthier. She'll steer me towards lower calorie options on the menu, or will even make suggestions for substitutions she could make (since most dishes are prepared fresh, most can be customized).

Today we had lunch there and I asked (as she had recommended in an earlier visit) for spring rolls with bean sprouts substituted for the noodles. So it was a rice paper wrapper (about 30 calories. I know because I buy them to make at home) with a filling of leaf lettuce, mint, cilantro, basil, shredded carrot, bean sprouts, and thin slices of lean roasted pork (it's so lean that it looks like thin-sliced turkey breast).

My calorie estimate puts two large rolls at under 350 calories for the two, and at a price of only $2.95 (they're meant as an appetizer, but they're pretty filling), a very economical lunch.

Not all restaurants have that good a calorie and price bargain as tastey, but there are a lot of options, if you're willing to be creative.

Eating off the appetizer menu is one of the best "secrets." There's a brewpub in town that makes a killer brown ale onion soup in a crock. Even with the toasted bread and cheese, it's a pretty good choice for a meal (not so much if you're going to then order a full meal). The first time we ate there, I ended up over-ordering. I was expecting a much smaller bowl of soup, and after eating the soup I wasn't hungry so I took the entree home (and got two meals out of it).

Another thing hubby and I do, is if we're thinking we do want more than appetizers, we don't order the appetizer and the meal together. We finish the appetizer before deciding what or whether we're going to order more food. Often we decide to split another appetizer. Now deep fried appetizers can be a worse choice than a full meal, but a lot of restaurants have very diet-friendly appetizers (the brew pub I mentioned has a veggie and dip tray, a hummus spread and toasted pita tray, seared tuna steak, and several other appetizers that would make a sensible meal).

07-09-2009, 08:20 PM
With 4 kids, it's *very* rare that we go out to a nice, sit down restaurant, so when we do, I enjoy every minute of someone waiting on me for a change!! :D

07-09-2009, 08:34 PM
I love love LOVE going out for dinner. We keep it to once a week for financial reasons, and it fits nicely into my life. Lord knows I could use a break from the kitchen once a week! So it IS nice to eat out.

I fit it into my life by picking wisely. I know that I don't have alot of control over the preparation as I'm not in the kitchen, but 1 meal out of a total of 21 can be manageable in terms of fat/carb/sodium content. I cook everything else from scratch so I figure it evens out.

After all, a girl's gotta live a little, no?! And if it fits into your plan, then why the heck not?

I say, if you LOVE it, GO for it. Account for it. And enjoy.


07-09-2009, 08:51 PM
As for sodium, we naturally eat a low sodium diet so I don't worry about if I take in a little extra sodium from eating out. The flip side to that though is that because we eat a low sodium diet anyway, sometimes restaurant food can appear to be overly salty and not enjoyable. For the places we frequent, that usually isn't the case though.

07-09-2009, 08:54 PM
With 4 kids, it's *very* rare that we go out to a nice, sit down restaurant, so when we do, I enjoy every minute of someone waiting on me for a change!! :D
Amen! I will also say that, for me, "enjoy every minute" means not skip on what I really want because of calories. I usually don't want to alfredo linguine, but if I do, I'm not holding back.

07-09-2009, 09:40 PM
I would much rather be at home where I can cook a meal that I know what is going in it but that's me. I do have an occasional Subway turkey on wheat, no cheese, all the veggies but that's not really a restaurant I suppose :P

lol I work at a Subway! :p

07-09-2009, 09:46 PM
lol I work at a Subway! :p

I use to be a night manager at one for 2 years. But that was before my healthy eating and I would eat nothing but steak and cheese...extra steak, extra cheese and extra mayo :lol3:

07-09-2009, 09:50 PM
I so TOTALLY love Subway!
I'll be done my exercise around 11:30 am so I've planned to work it into my day tomorrow (I'm on Weight Watchers)!

07-09-2009, 09:50 PM
Yay Kira! Have something for me too :D

07-09-2009, 09:59 PM
Maybe I'll trade in my breakfast toast (2 points) for some Baked Lays...

and YOU ROCK, Ms Chic (I refuse to call you "chunky" because you clearly aren't!)
Those stats are a-FREAKIN-mazing...

Keep up the inspiring work!


07-09-2009, 10:06 PM
Awww thank you so much, Kira!! :hug::hug:

07-09-2009, 10:23 PM
Splitting an entree is a great idea that my sweetie and I often do when eating out. The wait staff never seems to mind and we save money and calories.

07-09-2009, 10:28 PM
Splitting an entree is a great idea that my sweetie and I often do when eating out. The wait staff never seems to mind and we save money and calories.

That is a pretty nifty idea, thanks :)

07-09-2009, 11:07 PM
I work for a company that owns a bunch of restaurants. My office is above one and my lunch is provided daily off the menu.

You can imagine the sheer terror I had when I started. I viewed eating out as a rare treat and an indulgence and now it was going to be part of my every day life! I did consider bringing my own lunches, but then thought about all the money I would be saving on groceries ;)

As it turns out, it's been a neat experiment. I'm comfortable asking questions about the ingredients and requesting substitutions. I'm also not afraid to experiment with different things. It's made me a better cook.

Some days, I really want a burger or pasta or a sandwich or whatever, but I tell myself that it will be there tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Most days I'm content with my salad or my hummus plate with fresh veggies :) It has also completely eliminated my snacking. I do not eat between meals anymore because the metnality of "eating out" is still in the back of my head, if that makes sense. I've been able to maintain my weight with little effort.

But Mandalinn, I agree. Thai food is just one of those things I'm going to leave to the professionals!

07-10-2009, 02:09 AM
I've gone out to dinner at a restaurant at LEAST one night a week, ever since I started my journey. I love going out - I'd never give it up!

I am the special order queen - I used to work in a restaurant and I know that the waitstaff/kitchen just really don't care, they aren't going to remember me as the "weird one" - it happens a lot and they just want to get through the night. Ordering double veggies without butter isn't even a blip on their "weird" radar (in case anyone felt self conscious about getting what you want - DON'T).

I do try to stay a little savvy about it - Bloomin' Onion, Fettucini Alfredo, any of the dishes at P.F. Chang's that I know have 2000+ calories - NO WAY. There's always something yummy that fits within my plan (even when I'm splurging, I'm usually still "on plan" within the splurge, if that makes any sense).

07-10-2009, 07:41 PM
I am another that loves to cook. I do also love eating out. When I do eat out I try to go to a restaurant that does food amazing with the same high quality ingredients I use at home (organic fruits/veg, grass fed beef, wild fish, etc). There are a couple raw restaurants I just love. Half the experience is the visual appeal and just pure creativity of the ingredients. But sadly, these venues are few and far. I hope more restaurants catch on and I'll eat out even more! As for the rest-bleh, no thank you.