Benefits To Going On a Restaurant Diet

So, I am 2/3 of the way done with my restaurant diet from Jan 3 – Jan 31.

What is a restaurant diet?

A restaurant diet is where you don’t spend your own money at restaurants or cafes.  No Starbucks, No ice creams, and no take-out.  You can use gift cards or have your friends or company take you out, but you can not spend your own money.  This is the second time my family is going through this self-discipline exercise.  What benefits do I see?  (By the way, if you are my friend, I’ll be very grateful if you want to take me out to lunch. 🙂  Doh! Did I just type that?

Benefit 1: Remembering that Restaurants are a treat

While growing up, dining out at restaurants was more a treat rather than a fall back for poor planning.  We didn’t go to fancy restaurants all the time, nor did I go out to fast food often. For special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, or promotions, we would dine at our favorite fancy restaurant.  The food was great, the company was fun, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Some of why we enjoyed it was the fresh and new feeling of dining out. Here’s an example: If you ate ice cream every day, pretty soon ice cream doesn’t taste so good.  You then have to look for gourmet ice creams.  The spiral goes out of control.

By going on a restaurant diet, one benefit is turning dining out back into a treat.

Benefit 2: Homemade meals get more creative.

Another factor of a restaurant diet, is constraints.  37signals, a popular design and software company, talks about embracing constraints in their book, Getting Real.  Now, I’ve placed constraints on my diet which in turn forces me to think creatively and reminds me of the benefits of planning meals in advance.  You have to.  If you can not go out to eat at a restaurant, and you want to eat food, you, at the very least, have to plan going to the grocery store to pick up food.  Now, if you live like me where the grocery store is not the most convenient place to get to, you don’t want to go there every day.  So, you have to plan your grocery shopping.  Now, I am not a big fan of box or frozen meals.  I like fresh prepared food.  So, using our creativity, we can try to create the restaurant experience at home by trying new recipes we like, setting an elegant table, making appetizers or desserts, or adding mood music that coincides with the meal’s theme.

Benefit 3: Saving money

One benefit of not going out to eat at restaurants and cafes is I spend less money.  Sometimes I wonder do I really spend less money, but I am sure I do.  When I go to a restaurant, I am more apt to order pricier dishes, desserts, appetizers, wine and drinks.  At home, I don’t always have those items, and its cheaper at home.  Instead of a brownie sundae at a restaurant for $6.  I can bake homemade brownies at home, and eat them for a week.  According Bundle.com the average household spent $291 dining out during Oct 2009.  So, if I spend just the average, we’ll save $300 this month.

Benefit 4: Better Nutrition

When I make the food at home or buy the groceries, I have a much better idea of what exactly I am eating. For example, I know that I’m using quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil and using very little salt in my recipes.  I also very, very rarely make fried foods.  However, when I dine out, Chicken Fingers is one of my favorites.  In addition, I will often order french fries at a restaurant.  By putting myself on a restaurant diet, I’m reducing my calories in and eating better.

So, When are you going on a restaurant diet?

7 steps to mix Weight Loss with Eating Out at Restaurants.

Steps to Weight Loss and Restaurants: Think, Read, Ask, Alter, Half, Slow, & Walk

It’s difficult to navigate the landscape of the over-sized, over-oiled, over-salted menus of today’s restaurants. In my opinion, mixing Weight-Loss with Restaurants is similar to mixing oil and water.

It’s much easier to prepare your own meals in portion sizes that you control what ingredients are being used. Having said that, one can still enjoy meals at restaurants and lose weight. It’s definitely possible, but more difficult.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune describes Bernie Salazar’s, of Biggest Loser Fame, method for eating out and losing weight.

Bernie Salazar, who eats out twice a week, sometimes has half of his meal boxed up before the food ever gets to the table. And he asks them to keep it in the back—to avoid eating it right away. “Keep it out of sight,” he says. Do not have the other half sitting on the table with you. “A meal in a box is just a present!” he says, adding that he would be tempted to open it – and eat it – if it were sitting there with him.

Above all, he says, don’t be afraid to ask for food to be prepared the way you want it. “Would you rather offend the waiter or the cook by being picky or would you rather offend your heart?”

source: Trine Tsouderos, Chicago Tribune: A ‘Biggest Loser’s’ calorie-busting tips

Let’s break it down into steps we can repeat every-time we dine out.

7 tips for eating out and maintaining weight loss

Image: 'Restaurant Row in Dresden' www.flickr.com/photos/95572727@N00/1463856598
Image: 'Restaurant Row in Dresden' www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/1463856598
  1. Think before picking a restaurant. Try to find restaurants that don’t sacrifice taste in low-calorie dishes. Obviously, metropolitan areas like Chicago offer a large variety of restaurants to choose from, but in Paducah, KY, one might have less of a culinary choice.
  2. Read and comprehend the menu. By actually reading the menu for comprehension, you’ll have to think about it. Consequently, if a starter sounds appetizing (then you’ll remember while reading) that you will have to exercise more later to compensate the increase in calories.
  3. Ask questions! How is this prepared? What oil are our using? Is it fried or baked? How many calories are in this dish? Most restaurants will not divulge or conveniently choose not to know how many calories are in their menu items. By asking questions about how the food is prepared, you can make a better educated case into how many calories, carbs, fat, protein, nutrients are in the dish you are about to eat.
  4. Ask the waiter, chef, to alter the dish to your dietary needs. In other words, ask them for no salt, or to bake the fish instead of frying it. Paraphrasing Salazar, its much better to offend the restaurant than to come to a premature death due to poor diet.
  5. In the event that you do find yourself in a large-portion restaurant, while ordering your food, Ask the restaurant to half your order, and keep the doggie bag in the back as a gift for you when you leave the establishment. This way, you are not tempted to eat it, because its not on the table. Secondly, you’ll have a meal for home. I’ve suggested splitting the order in half in the past prior to eating, but I had not thought about asking the restaurant to split the order before even delivering the food to my table. That’s such a great idea.
  6. Eat Slow during the meal taking it one bite at a time. Chew your food completely, savoring each bite. By making the meal a slow event, you enjoy the food and give your body time to digest the food. Consequently, you’ll eat less and get your money’s worth.
  7. Take a walk after you eat to help with digestion. Exercise helps burn the calories. In fact, many experts suggest eating before and after a workout helps the body burn fat. I don’t go that far, but just the fact of walking around helps increase your activity and thus increases your Food Out.

What are your steps for maintaining weight-loss while eating at your favorite restaurant?