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Portion Distortion

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Thank you to Leanne Ely, CNC – the Dinner Diva for sharing with us her thoughts on how to not let eating out in a restaurant destroy your health plan.

One of the things that I have struggled with in regard to my own personal body clutter is learning to eat less food than what I want to eat. What I want to eat and what I need to eat are often incongruous and I have a small battle inside my head trying to decide if I am going to “behave” or “sin”. You know exactly what I’m talking about! It’s an issue I know a lot of us all share in common. Getting a grip on how much you really need food-wise is tough. We are used to overfeeding ourselves, truth be told.

Take restaurants for example. Not only do they bring your food on PLATTERS and not plates, they give you enough to feed your entire family. And what do we do? The food comes, we oooh and ahhh over how big the portion is and then we dig in. We will either eat till we’re stuffed and bag it up to take home or we’ll eat it all and complain about how full we are.

Let me share with you how many calories are in a typical chain restaurant meal. For fun, I’m going to share with you something I just ate at a major chain restaurant a while back (thinking a salad would be a good choice) and how blown away I was that it was this many calories and this much fat it’ just unbelievable!

The Chicken Caesar Salad I ate had 1,010 calories and 76 grams (yes, SEVENTY-SIX) of FAT!!!!!!! Hello?? I was absolutely STUNNED!! That’s just not doing my body any favors! 13 grams of that 76 fat grams were saturated fat, too.

What does that tell you?

Two things:

1) BEWARE of “healthy” main course salad options at restaurants and,

2) Restaurant salad dressings are usually really, really over the top fat-wise, carb-wise and in calories.

And that brings me back to my original point: less food – we don’t need to eat all of that! The all-you-eat-mentality is particularly pronounced at restaurants. They BRAG about their hefty portion size!

So how do you handle restaurants? Know what you’re walking into, for starters. If it is a chain restaurant, look on line to see if you can find the menu and the nutritional info for the menu. Not all restaurants do that, but there are other sites out there with that info – just Google it.

Second, have a back up plan. Order sauces, dressings and anything else that you will lend a huge caloric and often, fatty punch to the meal, on the side. All restaurants will happily accommodate – just ask.

Third, if you haven’t split your meal with a dining companion, ask for a doggie bag right when your meal comes. Cut your meal in HALF or more, and bag it up. If it is off your plate, you are less apt to chow down on it and leave with a Thanksgiving-stuffed feeling.

And last but not least – keep restaurant eating as a treat and not a part of your weekly plan. Eating at home is always cheaper, most likely to be more nutritious, you control the fat and the salt and the service is predictable, right?

If you need help planning your menus, go to Saving Dinner and try our Menu-Mailer, your family will thank you. Enjoy!


Eating Out – Italian

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It’s a bit difficult to eat at an Italian restaurant and stick to your UnDiet. The reason that most of us go to an Italian restaurant is for the pasta and very few Italian restaurants offer whole grain pasta. Don’t despair though, it is possible to enjoy Italian delicacies on the UnDiet.

Basic Tips for Eating Out

Set aside half your meal to eat the next day or if it won’t keep for the next day, save it for a snack later.


Skip the bread, pizza and pasta (all made with white flour), or bring your own whole grain pasta and ask the chef to cook it for you. I’ve never run into a restaurant that won’t accommodate a request like this.

If you must have pizza, don’t eat the crust. Either use a fork to eat just the cheese and toppings or order a plain green salad and scrape the pizza toppings, cheese and all, onto your salad.

Bruschetta on whole wheat bread.

Caesar Salad – set the croutons aside.

Ask for spaghetti squash or another vegetable in place of the pasta. Top with your favorite sauce from the menu.


Antipasto is a good Protein Meal.

If you’re ordering a Caprese Salad skip the olive oil. Good mozzarella and tomato only needs a drizzle of balsamic olive oil and basil leaves.

There are generally good seafood dishes on the menu although you should skip breaded seafood dishes.

If you must have a cream sauce look for cream sauces with non-dairy additions. For instance a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce is going to be about 250 calories less than an Alfredo Sauce.

Stuffed mushrooms are wonderful if they are not deep fried.

Chicken or Eggplant Parmigiana.

Meatballs – order grilled vegetables on the side, then give the pasta to someone else at your table and eat your meatballs with the vegetables.

Spinach dip with vegetables instead of bread.

Caesar Salad with chicken.

Broth based soups are good choices. A cream soup would be your next best choice and if you can get a cup of plain broth on the side to add to your cream soup, even better. Adding the broth doesn’t cut any fat or calories from your cream soup but it will be more filling.  If you want to cut the calories ask for an empty cup along with your cup of broth. Scoop out some of the cream soup and add the broth to your soup bowl.

Order your favorite pasta sauce served over grilled or steamed vegetables instead of pasta.

If you’ve had a Protein Meal, the gelato isn’t a bad choice for dessert, or have a glass of wine while everyone else eats dessert.