When eating at home, it is relatively easy to control what you put in your mouth. But when it comes to dining out, there can be plenty of dietary pitfalls lurking on the menu. Researchers at Cornell University in the US found that the average diner underestimates their calorie consumption by a whopping 38% when they eat out. With one in every six meals being eaten outside the home, your healthy-eating goals could easily be blown out the water.
Whilst you can’t always play swapsies with meal ingredients when at a restaurant, there are some lab-tested strategies that can be used to avoid a calorie blow-out.
Start with soup
In a study from Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that beginning a meal with soup resulted in 20 percent fewer calories being consumed across the entire meal.
Keep a messy table
A meal’s carnage can act as an environmental cue to stop eating. In a study from the journal Perceptual & Motor Skills, diners at an all-you-can-eat-buffet ate significantly less food when their tables were not cleared.
Eat with a man
This is one for the ladies. Researchers at Indiana University found that eating with a male companion would likely see you consuming fewer calories. According to lead researcher Molly Allen-O’Donnell, unconscious scripts cause women to eat less in male company because they want to appear more feminine.
Drink some orange juice
Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that the flavonoid substances found in OJ helped to neutralise the oxidative and inflammatory stress generated by fast food meals.
Use a bigger fork
Odd as it may sound, a study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who used larger forks ate significantly less than those with smaller ones. According to the study authors, when you’re chowing down with a big fork it is easier to see the progress you are making toward filling your stomach, so you’ll stop eating sooner.
Dress your own dish
Even a simple salad can open you up to a potential dietary pitfall. Take the typical Caesar salad. Once you've added the fried croutons and creamy cheese and mayo dressing, this seemingly healthy dish can add up to more calories than you may have bargained for. Try asking to have your dressings on the side, in a small bowl. You'll be surprised how little you need to flavour your meal.
Do your homework
Check the menu before you leave home. Most restaurants post their menus online. You'll be able to decide on what you're going to have beforehand and avoid any hunger-fuelled last minute decision making.
Skip the dessert
Most desserts come in at a whopping 600 caalories, and the majority of that is made up of sugar. If you're still really craving something when you get home, you can opt for a small piece of dark chocolate or some homemade sorbet. These are much better healthwise than that Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake, and you'll undoubtedly thank your past self.