Restaurant Food and Fast Weight Gain

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
Read more by this author.

Doctor Paul Kennedy

It’s hard to believe but it turns out that the average American “eats out” about 20 times per month. Previous studies have shown even higher rates of food consumption away from the home. Another recent survey indicated that 20% of the population proudly consider themselves “fast food junkies.” As part of my seminar series on fitness and wellness, I include a section on weight loss and food consumption. Primarily, I ask the participants, if they have a personal issue with excess body weight (fat), to find just two hundred calories in their eating plan that can be easily eliminated. Keep in mind that two hundred calories is about the number of calories in a can of non-artificially sweetened soda and a small cookie. Clearly, this should be easy to do but, for some, even this is considered a “sacrifice”. What a pity because just this simple adjustment in their eating plan will result, if all other factors remain the same, in an annual loss of about twenty pounds of fat! To bring it into even sharper focus for the “fast food junkies”, I explain to them that it is possible to significantly reduce their caloric intake at a fast food restaurant with the following example.

When I travel, I frequently am pressed for time and have to eat at a fast food restaurant. I frequently eat at a restaurant that features a sandwich called “The Whopper”. The typical order at this restaurant is a “Whopper”, a medium order of “fries” and a large sweetened “drink”. But that order isn’t for me for one simple reason—it contains approximately 1260 calories! With large fries it increases to 1400! This is far more than half of the necessary calories for a large adult male in one meal. Now, I know that Americans love a bargain– but 1400 calories in one meal? Are you kidding me? As for my choices, I order a grilled chicken sandwich with mustard instead of mayonnaise and NO bun. Instead of fries I order a side salad with light dressing and my drink of choice is UN-sweetened iced tea! Total calories for this meal? Just over 400 calories—and it’s delicious! That’s a calorie reduction for one meal of nearly 1,000 calories over the standard “Whopper” meal!! Obviously then, the key is to find a way to reduce the fat content and since many (not all) of the sandwiches at—okay, I’ll say it—Burger King are broiled rather than fried, the result is an “entrée” (in this case the chicken sandwich rather than a “Whopper”) that is lower in fat and calories. If you MUST have a “Whopper”, try the “Junior” at only 340 calories as compared to 670 calories with the standard “Whopper”.

At the typical “sit down” restaurant, one must be aware of hidden fat, salt and sugar. Restaurants always want you to return again so adding a little extra fat, sugar and salt to their meals makes you feel like you got your money’s worth from the standpoint of flavor. And speaking of “money’s worth”, it is not unusual for restaurants (especially chain restaurants) to provide you with generous portion sizes that come along with “generous” calorie counts. In this case, remember that you are not required to eat EVERYTHING (despite what our mothers always told us) so ask for a “doggie bag” and eat it later or even the next day (if properly refrigerated). The bottom line at a restaurant is to STOP eating when you feel full! And as for an “all you can eat” buffet, do yourself a favor and avoid them BUT if you DO go to one for a “meal” stay away from the fried food choices and the creamy sauces. Start with a large salad with minimal dressing before you hit the entrees. You’ll leave feeling just as full and with a lot less fat and calories which, in turn, will help you to avoid unnecessary fat weight gain.

We’ve always known that the battle of the bulge is a “calories in (eaten)/calories out (burned)” proposition. So don’t stack the deck against yourself when you decide to eat away from home. Be aware of some of the pitfalls of restaurant fare and realize that YOU are more in control of how you want your food prepared than you might think. Many restaurant cooks and chefs (especially at major chains) LOVE to get special orders because they get tired of cooking the same thing every day. And one more thing! Learn how to cook and/or learn how to cook “lighter”. There are hundreds of websites that have information and recipes that are delicious and healthful. I’m not asking you to live on carrots and tofu here! But I am suggesting that you are smart enough to know when a food or recipe is an unhealthy choice or that maybe a second helping is really not the answer to your weight problem. And “splurging” every once in a while is just asking for trouble. If you want some chocolate cake—fine! Just eat a small piece on a small plate and use a fork. Don’t suffer—enjoy! But be smart about it and keep your portion sizes smaller—even at home.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be

Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for October 2011. Good luck with YOUR program! I KNOW you can do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *