Weekly wellness: The 123s and ABCs of dining out (part 2)

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COLUMBIA - By this time, you know to be prepared, to avoid the buffet and to order a giant glass of water instead of that sugary soda, right? Let's keep going! There are a few more letters in the alphabet. (Read part one.)

"M" for Mayonnaise: Much like its condiment cousin, ketchup, mayonnaise also adds to the calorie count of your meal - but, at a much greater cost. One tablespoon of mayonnaise adds 100 calories to your meal, along with almost 2 grams of saturated fat. Skip it and invite mayo's cousin mustard to dinner, instead. With 1 tablespoon of mustard, you only add three calories to your meal. (Yes, three.) And no saturated fat.

"N" for No: If you are dining at a restaurant that offers the option of "super-sizing" your meal or creating a "meal deal" with your meal, just say "no." It may seem to save you a few pennies but it will most certainly add to your waistline.

"O" for On the Side: These three little words can save you many, many calories. Ordering a salad? Get the dressing "on the side." Ordering a dish that comes with a sauce or gravy? Get the sauce "on the side." Ordering a baked potato? Get the butter and/or the sour cream "on the side" (or skip it altogether). This way you can control the amount that is used (and use it sparingly).

"P" for Portions: Out at a restaurant AND at home, portions tend to get a lot of us in trouble. This is the root of many obesity issues. It's time to take back your Power over Portions. If you are dining out for dinner, ask if the restaurant offers a lunch-sized portion (which is usually smaller). Or split your meal with your dining partner. Or "halve" it - put half of your meal in a take-home container before you even begin to eat. Take back control over your portions. You can do it.

"Q" for Quality over Quantity: Choosing nutrient-dense (quality) foods, higher in fiber and water and lower in fat and sugar, help you feel full. For example, choose whole grain breads over dry, low fiber foods like snack pretzels. When you focus on the quality of the food, rather than the quantity, you'll make better nutrition-based decisions.

"R" for Read: Reading the menu is incredibly important. Look for key words like fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, buttered, creamed or stuffed, which are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. Don't be afraid to ask your server how the dishes are prepared, using what ingredients. Try to choose entrees that feature seafood, chicken or lean meat, and avoid fatty meats.

"S" for Soups & Salads: Broth-based soups and dinner salads are an excellent way to start a meal because either can fill you up with something healthy and relatively low in calories. Furthermore, soup and salad together can make an excellent meal and replace an entrée. Don't disregard the power of the S & S combination.

"T" for Taste: Taste your food BEFORE you add more salt. WebMD.com estimates that 80 percent of the sodium we consume comes from restaurant meals and packaged foods. As a result, the average American's diet contains two to three times the FDA's recommended limit of 1,500 mg to 2,400 mg a day. Why should we care? Sodium causes fluid retention, which increases blood volume and requires the heart to pump harder to push it through your arteries. Over time, this often leads to an increase in blood pressure, which damages artery walls and makes them vulnerable to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), thus increasing your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. So think before you shake that salt. Taste to make sure you really need it.

"U" for Utensils: This seems very simple but it actually makes a difference. Set your utensils down between bites. If you keep your fork in your hand while you're eating, you're more apt to refill it before you've even finished the bite that you're enjoying. Take a moment. Enjoy what you're eating. Place your fork down between bites. Relax and enjoy.

"V" for Vegetables: Load up on the fresh and/or steamed vegetables! Fill your plate! Go crazy! Do your due diligence and make sure you know how they are prepared. Ask that they not be served with butter. If they offer a sauce (such as a cheese sauce for broccoli), ask that they be prepared plain. Order them in place of a potato or rice or noodles that might be offered as a side with your meal.

"W" for Water: Don't drink your calories, drink water instead. Full sugar sodas, sweet teas and mixed drinks can add hundreds of calories and dozens of grams of sugar to your meal. Stick with water.

"X" for Xtras: Skip the "xtras" like appetizers, cocktails and desserts. (Unless it's your birthday or anniversary. I'm not totally mean.)

"Y" for You: The most important part of this whole journey is YOU. You are in control. You have the power.

"Z" for Zero: This represents the real road blocks keeping you from reaching your goals. Zero. You can do this. I know you can.

Amanda K Barnes
Certified Health Coach & Certified Personal Trainer


Weekly Wellness