Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Category: Advice (page 1 of 2)

How to maintain weight without dieting

How to avoid gaining weight without dieting:

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat mindfully
  3. Don’t fret about it every minute of every day.

At least that’s what I’m learning from this experiment. I’ve started to weigh myself at home and am learning that by doing the things recommended in Why Diets Make Us Fat, my weight is consistent: 208 most days.

Breakfast: why eating nuts works

Research suggests that nuts, the enemy of calorie counters, actually contribute to healthy weight and even weight loss. Since I’ve stopped counting calories and Weight Watcher points, I’ve been eating more nuts. They have a satisfying mouthfeel, crunchy and substantial.

The trick is to avoid eating salted nuts. Salt is a trigger food that leads to overeating.

My go-to breakfast is plain yogurt, some 100 percent real maple syrup, fruit (fresh if possible), some kind of high-fiber sugar-free cereal and unsalted nuts. It’s really satisfying and seems to set me up for a successful day. The rest of today will be all restaurant eating, and I think I’m well prepared.

A good reason to exercise

A friend of my husband asked him recently, “What happened to The Restaurant Dieter.” The answer was in my last post. I diet no more.

That doesn’t mean I don’t try to eat healthy and take care of myself. It just means that I’m not counting those Weight Watchers points anymore.

Christmas is challenging time for most folks who struggle with weight. Besides the availability of rich and sugary food itself, emotions run high — both happy emotions and not-so-happy emotions.

What to do? Today it was 25 minutes on the treadmill. Did the trick.


8 turkey sandwiches dieters have to avoid

For many Weight Watchers, a turkey sandwich is the gold standard. A basic version counts as two slices of bread (5 Smart Points) and 4 ounces of deli turkey (2 Smart Points). Add in some lettuce, tomato or other vegetables and you have a pretty satisfying meal. Ordering a turkey sandwich at lunch winds up consuming 7 points from my daily allowance of 34. Plenty left over for dinner and breakfast.

But in the hands of some restaurant chefs, the humble turkey sandwich becomes a minefield. Consider these turkey sandwiches:

  • Arby’s: The Roast Turkey Ranch & Bacon sandwich (24 Smart Points)
  • Blimpie: Turkey & Provolone sub (large, 24 Smart Points)
  • Bruegger’s: Turkey Toscana on Hearty White Hot Panini (19 Smart Points)
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Club Turkey Sandwich with Traditional Ciabatta (19 Smart Points)
  • Cosi: Bacon Turkey & Cheddar Melt (20 Smart Points)
  • Denny’s: Club Sandwich (19 Smart Points)
  • Firehouse Subs: Turkey Bacon Ranch Specialty Sub (41 Smart Points large; 26 medium)
  • Subway: Footlong Turkey, Bacon and Avocado (23 Smart Points)



Weight Watchers: What to know about eating at chains

It’s not that chain restaurants are out to get us. Really. It’s just that they’re out to get everyone else (as customers) and leave us to manage on our own. Weight Watchers has done a great job of pulling together information on chain restaurants in its Menu Master Eating Out Guide.

The book is very complete, offering SmartPoints numbers for most chains and some non-chain but common menu items. A 3-by-4-inch piece of eggplant parmesan is 16 points, according to the book. (For non Weight Watchers members, this is the number you need for comparison. The Restaurant Dieter gets 34 points to spend on food daily, with most vegetables and fruits at zero.)

Weight Watchers’ relentlessly upbeat tone even extends to chain restaurants. “You’ll find a restaurant here an enjoy eating out. Menu Master will help make it a pleasure.” Uh-huh. Sure. How about some of these winners:

  • Auntie Annie’s: What carb addict hasn’t strolled past those glistening, nutritionally vapid pretzels and had a craving? But the price is steep. A cinnamon sugar soft pretzel is 19 points even before 3 for the light cream dip or 7 for the caramel dip. Run away!
  • Bruegger’s: Where a jalapeño cheddar bagel can cost you 13 points, nearly half of what you get for the entire day. Or a turkey sandwich — usually a good choice, in this case Harvest Turkey on Ciabatta, for 21 points. (A hamburger at Five Guys, which is a darn good old-fashioned burger, is only 24 SmartPoints.)
  • Chili’s: I guess we have to pass on the Bacon Ranch Steak Quesadilla at 63 points. That is not a typo.
  • Cinnabon: Why even bother to know the SmartPoints, when hardly anything on the menu is below 15 and ranges up to 46.
  • IHOP: If breakfast starts with an order of Cinnamon Swirl Brioche French Toast and Sausage at 47 point, why not just head to bed and start over tomorrow? Or: just see Cinnabon, above.
  • Jamba Juice: Didn’t smoothies start as healthful alternatives? Not here. Something that sounds as innocuous as a Banana Berry Smoothie is 32 points.
  • KFC: Just be aware that the Chicken Pot Pie (at 32 SmartPoints) makes an extra crispy fried chicken breast at 13 look like a bargain.
  • Red Lobster: Which has Cajun Chicken Linguine Alfredo on the children’s menu with half a serving at 25 points.

Get the book here. It’s essential.


Waiters of the world: We have to order like this. Sorry.

When ordering at a restaurant, Weight Watchers members have little choice but to order like Sally in this famous scene from the 1980s movie, “When Harry Met Sally.”

What helps:

  1. Tell the waiter upfront that you’re watching your food intake and that you’re going to have to ask for some things modified.
  2. Tell the waiter if he’s successful in helping you, he’ll get a nice tip.
  3. Give the nice tip.

I was recently at a Mexican restaurant for a dinner sponsored by my boss. I did step No. 1. Then I said: “I would like the fajitas. Can I please have corn tortillas instead of flour? And It sounds like the fajitas are marinated in something. Can you please ask the cook to do it dry or take the chicken out of the marinade and run it under some water before cooking it? If it comes out all shiny from the oil, I’ll have to send it back. If it doesn’t, I’ll make sure you get a good tip.”

The waiter did a great job. Even though I didn’t pay the tab for the meal and he got tipped by my boss, I slipped him $5. It was worth it.



Healthy eaters just have to be selective

It can be done. Just be selective.

What the research says about wine, salt, artificial sweeteners and even water

corkscrew-bottle-neck /

corkscrew-bottle-neck /

The New York Times  Upshot column is running a good series looking at the research from some of the hottest health topics. Here’s what they’re saying:

Weight Watchers: What to eat for breakfast

Breakfast12.20.15Nobody can eat at a restaurant all the time, not even The Restaurant Dieter. The new  Weight Watchers program really pushes members towards what my meeting leader calls “real food.” So the trick is to eat the right things when you can at home.

Today’s breakfast was 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons real maple syrup, 1 ripe diced pear (from the Harry & David gift box that arrived in Friday’s UPS delivery) and 1/2 cup mini wheat squares for a grand total of 7 points. A really satisfying breakfast.


If It’s Shiny, It’s Nearly Always Fat

The food in chain restaurant commercials is seductive. It is sun-soaked, or at least artificially lighted within an inch of its life to look so. It’s wet, dripping with the water of vegetables freshly picked and washed.

And it is shiny. It glistens in that faux sunlight like the screen of a brand new iPad, just loosened from its pristine white box.  The mouth waters. And all that sheen adds up to…fat.
Whether it’s butter or the cheapest canola oil available, restaurant food often arrives at the table with a veneer of fat. Often it’s more than a mere veneer. A piece of fish can easily have a whole tablespoon of fat clinging to it on all sides. With olive oil, that’s 119 calories and 14 grams of fat.
There’s even a thin sheen when you’ve asked for it to be grilled without fat, picked up from residue on the grill itself.
On Weight Watchers, this presents a question: How to account for an undetermined amount of shine. A Weight Watchers leader told me she follows a simple rule: 1 point if its a thin sheen and 2 if it looks properly shellacked. In my loss of 50 pounds, I followed this rule scrupulously.
At a Mexican restaurant, for example, chicken or shrimp fajitas, especially if eaten with higher-fiber corn tortillas, are a good option. But they often arrive at the table sizzling in the grease. I’ve taken to telling the server: “Please ask the kitchen to take it out of whatever it’s marinating in, run it under some water and then throw it on the grill.” Try it sometime. The waiter may pretend to be confused, like you’re speaking in Chinese or something, and it may well come out dripping anyway. But you can always send it back, and I have. The resulting dish doesn’t suffer in flavor in the least.
So I was a little dubious recently when I stopped for another Whole Paycheck salad and saw on the salad bar a bottle of shiny brown liquid that purported to be no-fat balsamic dressing. Such items don’t have to carry nutritional labeling, so one has to take it on faith. The ingredients were water, balsamic vinegar, tamari, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, onion powder, rosemary, thyme and garlic.
Nutritional yeast carries a small amount of fat, which may account for the shine, but very little. Lacking oil, it didn’t spread through the salad the way an oily dressing does. It didn’t have the silky flavor of a first-class balsamic dressing, but on the other hand, it was fine.
Chalk one up for nutritional yeast. Anyone have a recipe to replicate this dressing at home?


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