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X-Treme Eating: Tips to Avoid

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Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is at it again. (If you remember I've referred to them a couple times in recent posts Soda Not So Lucrative for Schools and Weight Loss Claims Under Fire) The consumer watchdog group has coined the phrase "X-Treme Eating" in their most recent barrage on the food and restaurant industry.

In their latest expose, CSPI charges chain restaurants with promoting this so called X-Treme eating. What is X-Treme eating? Consuming huge amounts of calories in one sitting, which is oh so easy to do with the entrees at some of the restaurants CSPI reviewed. I think we know that certain entrees aren't exactly low calorie, but have you really thought about how much you're actually getting when you do order them? Just to name a few:

* Ruby Tuesday's Colossal Burger: 1940 calories, 141 fat grams
* Ruby Tuesday's Fresh Chicken and Broccoli Pasta: 2060 calories, 128 fat grams
* On the Border's Raunchiladas: 1870 calories, 41 saturated fat grams (didn't report total fat for this item)
* Romano's Macaroni Grill Twice Baked Lasagna with Meatballs: 1360 calories, 38 sat fat grams (again, total not fat reported)

And that's just the entrees! Appetizers and desserts can have just as many calories, yiks(that's a whole other post). And I didn't even get to sodium!
(To read CSPI's article on X-Treme Eating click here)

With this in mind I thought would share some dining out tips that come from the folks at Healthy Dining:

1. Ask how meals are prepared and what ingredients the chef uses. Is the fish or chicken broiled with butter or other fat? Is it served with a sauce? How large is the portion? Are vegetables buttered or creamed?

2. Fish or poultry that is broiled, grilled, baked, steamed or poached is a good choice. However, entrées are often basted with large amounts of fat. Request that your entrée be prepared with minimal fat or salt. Most chefs are willing to prepare entrees with lemon juice, wine or a small amount of oil when requested.

3. Choose dishes flavored with herbs and spices rather than rich sauces, gravies, or dressings, or ask for sauces and other toppings (like sour cream) to be served on the side. Then limit your use! (Try dipping your fork in the sauce before each bite)

4. Stir-fried entrées can be prepared with very little oil – or a lot. Request the chef to prepare your dish with very little oil.

5. Pizza can be a low-fat, nutritious choice if you ask for very light cheese (aim for half of a standard pie) and opt for vegetable toppings.

6. Sandwiches can be an excellent choice if you choose lean deli meats such as turkey or ham (but watch portion size!) instead of higher fat cold cuts, such as bologna or salami. Choose whole grain breads and limit or avoid oil, butter, and mayonnaise.

7. Beware large portions. Ask for a take-home bag and eat the remaining portion the next day. Or share an entrée with a friend and order up an extra side of vegetables, a fresh salad, or a small appetizer.

8. Restaurants tend to use very large plates and utensils (larger than most people have at home), so be careful about eating everything on your plate.

9. Eat slowly. Savor the entire experience – the atmosphere, the occasion, the company at the table, and by all means, the food! If you take your time, you’re less likely to find you’ve finished a large meal that contained too much food.

Healthy Dining will formally be launching their new website www.HealthyDiningFinder.com March 14th. Visit their site (after March 14) for restaurants in your area that serve a selection of healthier menu choices.

A BIG thank you to Healthy Dining for providing these great tips.
(Photo courtesy of mathwizxp)
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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