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How to be a defensive diner

Posted by Elizebath Bijoy Monday, March 14, 2011


1. Start with soup
Starting your meal with a bowl of soup is an easy and effective way to take the edge off your hunger and prevent you from overeating later in the meal.
Since soup is mostly water, it's an easy way to fill up without a lot of calories. In fact, one study found that people who ate a bowl of soup at the start of their meal consumed 20 per cent fewer calories than those who skipped soup. What's more, despite eating fewer calories, soup eaters didn't report feeling any less full.
Skip the creamy soups and instead opt for clear broth-based soups that contain vegetables, beans and lentils.
2.  Divide and conquer
As much as you like to think you stop eating when you're full, studies continue to show that people rely on visual cues to guide their hunger. For example, in a study conducted at Cornell University, researchers found that the amount of popcorn moviegoers ate depended entirely on the size of the bag of popcorn they were given. People with the largest bag of popcorn ate 45 per cent more than those with smaller bags, even when the popcorn was stale. Most restaurant portions are two to three times larger than what most people need. To cut calories and prevent overeating, request part of your meal be packaged before you start eating or share a main course with a friend. Alternatively, skip the main course and opt for two light starters instead.
3. Opt for À la carte
When given the choice between a buffet, fixed, or à la carte menu, always choose the last option. Fixed menus and buffets may seem like a better deal when dining out, but the only thing you’ll be gaining is extra calories on your plate.
Ordering à la carte allows you to pick and choose your courses based on how hungry you are, and avoid unnecessary calorie traps and extras that you wouldn’t normally order.
4. Control your condiments
Seemingly innocent extras, such as sauces and dressings, can really nudge up the calorie content of your meal. Take salad for example. A typical undressed side salad contains a mere 25 calories and 0g of fat. Drizzle it with creamy dressing and the calorie content goes through the roof with over 140 calories and 12g of fat.
Skip unnecessary calories by requesting sauces and dressings on the side - this way you can control how much gets added to your meal.
5. Don't save your calories
If you go light on lunch, or skip your afternoon snack in preparation for a meal out, think again. Arriving at a restaurant hungry is a sure-fire way to overeat.
Instead of saving calories, be sure to eat balanced meals at regular times through the day, and have a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or low fat yoghurt, before heading to the restaurant - you'll be more likely to make sensible choices, and less likely to overindulge than when you're famished.
6. Swap your sides
If your meal comes with a side of fries, rice, mashed potatoes or bread, request a healthier alternative such as steamed veggies or a salad to lower the calorie content of your meal. Carbohydrate-heavy sides, such as mashed potatoes are an economical way to fill a plate – unfortunately they also add a lot of unnecessary calories to your meal.
7. Read up
Take your time to read through the menu and look for key words that can give you a clue about how a meal is prepared, and its calorie content.
Foods that are breaded, fried, creamed or stuffed are going to contain substantially more calories and fat than food that is grilled, steamed, baked, poached or roasted.
As for dessert, this final course doesn't have to be off limits. Skip the cheese cake, chocolate brownies, ice cream and pastries, and instead opt for fresh fruit, sorbet, fruit ices or meringues for a treat that's lower in both calories and saturated fat.
8. Avoid liquid calories
Calories from beverages can really add up, tarnishing even the healthiest of meals.
Making healthy choices when it comes to what you drink can easily knock off a hundred or more calories from your meal. For example, a glass of soda contains more than 150 calories and 9 teaspoons of added sugar. Add a specialty coffee with dessert and you're looking at another 100 to 200 calories added to your meal.
Save your calories for where they matter most - your meal - by ordering calorie-free beverages, such as water, tea or plain coffee instead of soda, energy drinks and sweetened fruit juice.
9. Savour the flavour
It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain to let it know it's full. Eating quickly, or being distracted often means eating more calories than our bodies really need.
Slow down and bring awareness to the meal by focusing on the flavour and texture of the food. Alternatively, try placing your fork and knife on the table between bites to avoid eating too quickly. Being mindful of what and how much you're eating means you'll probably eat less overall.
10. Savour the flavour
It takes twenty minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain to let it know it's full. Eating quickly, or being distracted often means eating more calories than our bodies really need.
Slow down and bring awareness to the meal by focusing on the flavour and texture of the food. Alternatively, try placing your fork and knife on the table between bites to avoid eating too quickly. Beng mindful of what and how much you're eating means you'll probably eat less overall.

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