Top Three Reasons to Dine IN
By Kate Otto, RD, LDN
Bariatric Dietitian at BIDMC
1. Save calories.
It is a well-known fact that many restaurant meals contain several hundred more calories than if we had made the same meal ourselves. Have you checked the nutrition facts from any of your favorite restaurants lately? Some chains have made it easier for us by including their calorie information right on the menu, and it can be quite an eye-opener: 900 calories for a turkey sandwich? No, thank you.
2. Save money.
Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks these days? Restaurants are businesses, after all — they need to make a profit too. Fast food meals are rarely even a good value anymore. Save your hard-earned cash for a special occasion that’s worth the financial and caloric cost.
3. Avoid foodborne illness.
Need I say more?
We all have barriers to healthy lifestyle changes, and sometimes dining in can be difficult. Whether you work long hours, have a busy schedule keeping up with or caring for family members, have volunteer commitments, or just plain don’t like to cook, I understand your frustrations. Here’s a few tips to help get you started:
Keep it balanced and keep it simple.
You don’t have to have culinary training to make a delicious, healthy meal you and your family will love. Aim to include a lean protein source, like poultry without the skin, egg whites/egg substitute, seafood, lean beef, or pork loin. Pair it with a good-size portion of non-starchy vegetables, and top it off with a smaller amount of whole grain or low glycemic index carbohydrate sources, like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, or beans.
Two words: slow cooker.
If you don’t own one already, I highly suggest considering the investment. And, I would argue that slow cookers are the easiest, lowest maintenance way to cook. With only a few simple preparation steps, just throw in some key ingredients (consider the balance as mentioned above), season as desired and flip the switch. No stirring, no preheating, no waiting for the water to boil. Seriously, sign me up!
Recipes are easy to come by, and ingredient adjustments/substitutions are endless. If your schedule can be unpredictable, consider spending a little more for one that has a self-timer. (Trust me on this one, especially if you live alone.)
Here's one recipe, from my mentor/friend/fellow RD’s blog »
Scared of the stove?
No worries if you're not confident enough to tackle the range — your microwave can be just as effective (and way speedier too)! Stock up on convenience items to use when you are in a time crunch. Healthy frozen meals, frozen or pre-cut raw vegetables and fruits, and pre-grilled protein foods can all save you time and calories.
This is especially helpful if you only have a couple hours per week to prepare food, or if you would prefer to only have to “bite the bullet” once per week. Make several servings at once. Leftovers generally keep in the fridge for five days. However, after five days (or when it starts to smell a little funky, whichever comes first), toss it to avoid foodborne illness.
Do you live alone and/or crave variety in your diet? Invest in some reusable plastic or glass containers and freeze your leftovers. Next time you want a healthy meal and have no time to spare — voilà, a homemade frozen individual meal is within reach.
Or, prepare each meal component individually, and mix and match later. For example, if you have some chicken, veggies, and quinoa, enjoy them together today, add them to some greens in a salad tomorrow, throw them in a wrap for a sandwich the next day.
Plan your grocery list ahead of time.
Organization is the key to maximizing your budget and your time. Check out the weekly circular for sales on convenience items or your general staple foods, clip a few coupons, and plan your menu ahead of time to save your wallet and your precious time later.
Breakfast for dinner.
Why not? Eggs are easy and a great source of protein. Scramble them with some veggies and a sprinkle of low fat cheese, add in a slice of whole wheat toast, English muffin, or bagel thin and you’ve got a balanced meal! Limit your yolks to no more than three per week if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels.
Ask for help.
Delegate tasks when you can; take turns doing the grocery shopping or cooking. If you are new to at-home meal prep, talk to family members or friends about their “go-to” healthy recipes for some ideas. Bonus tip: getting your kids involved in meal prep makes them more apt to try new foods.
Haven’t convinced you yet?
Or, perhaps you are human and realize it’s 100 percent unrealistic to never dine out? I hear you, and completely understand where you are coming from. Let’s be real though: few things compare to a delicious meal out with friends and family that doesn’t require you to lift a finger. Here’s some tips to enjoy a meal out without sabotaging your weight loss efforts:
- Order an appetizer or lunch-sized portion as your entrée.
- Make special requests: substitute calorie-dense side dishes for nutrient-dense ones (think mixed veggies instead of loaded mashed potatoes).
- Split a meal with a friend or family member, or ask for a takeout container to be brought out with your food.
- Keep yourself informed: check out the menu ahead of time online; first to find a meal you can tolerate, and to browse the nutrition facts if they are available. (Even registered dietitians have to do this!)
- Keep your protein sources lean.
- Opt for steamed veggies vs. sautéed.
- Limit your liquid calories. If you’ve undergone a bariatric procedure, remember to separate fluids and solids by 30 minutes to maximize satiety. H20 is the way to go!
- Decide ahead of time between the bread basket, an appetizer, or dessert. Better yet — ask that the bread basket not be brought out.
- Heading out after dinner and can’t take your leftovers with you, but don’t want to be tempted to pick at them while you wait for the bill? Douse your plate with salt, pepper, or anything that will prevent you from mindless munching. Yes, this is a waste. But keep in mind the server will just be dumping it anyway.
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted April 2013