This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.
The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.
On eating out
Generally speaking, eating out is a temptation to eat wrong. But you can eat out and eat right if you just discipline yourself and remember a few simple facts and rules.
They want you to eat more than you should
And why is that? Well, they want to make money and they can't make as much if you eat less. For example, Reuters carried this story in June of 2002:
This is generally true whether or not you eat in an inexpensive, fast-food restaurant or an up-scale three or four star place. I don't know if it's still true, but at McDonalds (yes I have), when I tried to order just a burger, I was informed that buying the burger and small fries was more expensive than buying their "real deal meal." This consisted of large fries, sandwich and large beverage. This is all about "sales volume." I finally decided that on the rare occasions that I went there, I would decide exactly what I wanted before I went to the counter and then stick to my decision. And, by the way, McDonalds has added healthier choices to its menu. Of course, if I really want to eat healthy, I still don't go there. But you have to hand it to them, their bathrooms are generally some of the better ones right off the freeway. And . . .
Things are improving
This story ran April 15 in the New York times:
In various subtle ways, things are changing for the better. According to a story in the Boston Globe, U.S.A. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson has launched a "fight against obesity" as of March, 2004. The current administration approved a new, humorous advertising campaign aimed at motivating an overweight nation to look in the mirror and lose those love handles, the potbelly, and the double chin. The story goes on to quote Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, saying that while she was happy the Bush administration was drawing attention to obesity, the ads are only "a half-measure" to address it. "What they should be doing is trying to get junk food out of the schools, requiring calorie-labeling on chain-restaurant menus, prohibiting junk-food marketing aimed at children, and funding every state program to promote physical activity."
Effective diet control when eating out
In most restaurants where you sit down and have a server, the guidline for tipping is to give a proportion of the total check, say 15% or 20%. Duh! Now was there ever a better incentive for a server to try to push more food? The way to handle this is to decide before you order what a server probably deserves as a rule and then use that as a guidline for your tipping, no matter what you end up ordering or how much you end up paying. Many times, if you make this clear to the server (perhaps subtly), they will be glad to assist you in maintaining your diet.
This will not solve all "food pushing" problems, however. Here is something that happened to me just today at brunch. So I'm at a very elegant and expensive ($30/head) brunch with my spouse and five other friends. I had already decided just how to handle this. This would be my only meal today. I had tea for breakfast, and I will have a small snack before bed. At the brunch I would have three plates. The first would be my breakfast plate (about as much food as I would have had for breakfast). The second plate would be my dinner plate (ditto). And, if I got to the desset plate, then that would be my lunch plate.
The server comes around with the orange juice, and the glasses are very large. I say to him, "I'm just going to have a half glass of orange juice." And he gives me just that. I drink it and go for my first plate. I come back, the huge glass is full of orange juice. Now it doesn't take rocket science to figure out what has happened. Either the server thinks he is giving good service, or he just forgot and filled everyone's glass. Which leads to Rule #42: If they give you more than you asked for, don't eat or drink it. Oh, and Correllary #76: The best way to stop a zealous waiter from serving you more (bread, juice, coffee, etc.) is to leave it uneaten on your plate or undrunk in your glass. I would even assert that if you are in the "better" restaurants, where the servers are under the gun to give service (for the tip), if you drink even part of it, or eat a bite of your bread, they will give you more. You know, it just isn't worth the hassle to try to retrain these folks, and it isn't worth the pounds that will creep on to your body, which lead to overweight, and then obesity, and then, well you get it. And for those last ditch defenders of eating such unwanted food (the starving Chinese, etc.), it will actually save food in the long run. Think it through, and you'll see that it will save food to turn it down.
Also, many restaurants make it difficult to order smaller portions. I finally had to just decide to look at the serving before I begin to eat and mentally mark off what seemed appropriate. Then I ask for a take home bag or box, take the rest home, and eat it the next day. I've been in restaurants where the entree servings were ridiculously large. 16 oz. of animal flesh is too much food for anyone but a serious bodybuilder to eat at one sitting. It was beautifully presented, but it was designed to make you feel like the $20 that you paid for it was well-spent.
So what can you do?
Eating the right amount of the right food can definitely be a challenge, but you can do it. And you will probably irritate some of your friends and even more waiters in the process. But your friends, well, they will get over it, hopefully, and begin to accept a slimmer, fitter you. The waiters and restauranteers need to get over it. So what can you do?