Tuesday, January 17, 2012

5 Tips for Dining Out without Pigging Out

Day 17 of Your Year to Wellness

Hanging with Paula Deen, for a good cause brings great results

In today’s lesson I’m taking you away from thinking and forgiveness; topics which require time to master, to a topic you can do today. But keep in mind that although it can be done today, it doesn’t mean that you are done with the lesson. Success is a habit and it must be done over and over and over again to be called success.

Like everything else, dining out requires common sense, but as my mother said “Common sense just ain’t that common. When you apply these tools and ideas to dining you will see that they can be applied to living as well.

When I was growing up, we rarely ate food that was not cooked at home. There was school lunch and the occasional sub from the local Italian sub shop. Back then school lunches were made up of the same foods you had to eat at home and like today, were served by beautiful souls who made sure that no child was left hungry. The subs were a real treat. These hand crafted marvels were a complete meal, salad and all, but if I was ever caught eating in public, or drinking from a juice carton my mother would find out from Robin’s mother who was told by Mr. Brown. Eating in public was not proper, not even in the hood. On a recent trip to Korea I was informed of the change that Starbucks brought to the country. I expected to be told that tea drinkers had become coffee drinkers, and was surprised to learn that the big change was people drinking and eating in the streets. Walking and eating outside before Starbucks was not proper in Korea; just like my childhood neighborhood.

We really are a fast food nation where driving up to a window for take-out is no longer a weekly treat, it is a regularity and for some a twice a day habit.

It’s no wonder that we don’t know how to dine out  without pigging out (you have no idea how hard it is to not type “eat out.”) Yes, the portions are large, but most establishments know that if they weren’t you would not come back. Dining out in a family restaurant is an art. Eating in a fine restaurant is a Picasso. When my siblings and I were growing up, my sister Christine would practice dining in a restaurant. We’d only have a grilled cheese sandwich but we still had to know which fork to use first. Her class in etiquette sometimes took place at the local diner but most times it was at home at our own table. What she taught and what I learned later through observation have taken me to many five star establishments around the world.

Learning to eat in polite company is a necessity for being---- polite. Dining out without pigging out is an integral part of your wellness. Here are those wonderful 5 tips:

·         Eat at home first—this was one of my sister and mother’s common sense tips that I have continued for life. Eat a small salad or cup of soup before you go out so that your hunger is not raging. As a vegetarian, I eat at home out of necessity. I’m often faced with very limited options which have become even more limited in my endeavor to be well. When I’ve eaten a little something at home, I am less likely to substitute the lack of choice and my hunger with potatoes and bread.

·         Research your restaurant—almost every restaurant has a web site which lists their menu options and its ingredients.  Know before you go. Know what you will order and how much of it you will eat.

·         Take your own take-home container—and use it as soon as your food comes to the table. Obviously, I not telling you to do this at a banquet or in a five star restaurant—their portions are already tiny. Eating six small meals a day is much healthier than the one or two huge meals that most big folks eat. By dividing the meals, you are helping your metabolism run efficiently throughout the day. Don’t wait for the server to come back with a container at the end of the meal. If you are like me when I started out, that last one more bite will be gone before the server can even leave. I’m also more inclined to reheat and eat something that is not in cardboard. It’s a small trick I play on my mind which says, that I had something to do with the preparation and this container is not something waiting to be thrown out.

·         Share an entre—I know, more common sense, but some folks are afraid of looking “cheap.” When my manager and sister from another mister Jeanine and I dine out, we call ourselves the Five Dollar Sisters; because that’s about what our meal costs. We split a lunch sized entrée and are more than satisfied with the meal. (Though I do think people are making the entre smaller and smaller when they see us coming.)

·         DRINK WATER—Starbucks is not just changing the way other cultures live, they are also changing the way we get our calories. We are now drinking as many or more than we eat. I love my Green Tea Latte with soy milk and no classic sweetener, but it’s a treat not a staple. When you dine out, order water and drink and entire glass after your meal. When you do you will have a little extra money left to add to the servers tip.

Dining out is a treat and in most of the world, still a luxury. While it requires a great deal of common sense, it should be seen as special and should be treated that way as well.

Breaking bread and sharing a meal is a wonderful way to be well with friends. Do it in reverence and respect.

Be well, be you, be Whole

Bertice Berry, PhD

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