When you're dining out, assume food's fattening Estimates: Restaurant portions are generally larger and greasier than what you would make for yourself at home.

Eating Well

February 04, 1997|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

How do the rest of you do it? How do you eat out and still stick with an eating plan that helps you lose those pounds left over from '96?

It's a quagmire out there.

Recently, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reported on registered dietitians' inability to accurately guestimate the fat and calorie content of restaurant fare. At the American Dietetic Association (ADA) annual meeting last October, dietitians were challenged to evaluate lasagna, grilled chicken Caesar salad, a tuna salad sandwich, hamburger and onion rings, and a porterhouse steak dinner.

Of the 203 dietitians who played the game, not one came within 20 percent of getting it right.

Here's how badly they miscalculated:

Hamburger and onion rings: Dietitians' estimate, 863 calories and 44 grams of fat; actual content, 1,550 calories and 101 grams of fat.

Tuna salad sandwich: Dietitians' estimate, 374 calories and 18 grams of fat; actual content, 720 calories and 23 grams of fat.

Porterhouse steak dinner: Dietitians' estimate, 1,239 calories and 64 grams of fat; actual content, 1,860 calories and 125 grams of fat.

CSPI clearly made its point. Restaurant portions are far too large, and, unless the establishment tells you how food was prepared, you have no way of knowing what's inside, even when you're a food and nutrition expert.

That reality produced the Nutrition Facts labels on processed foods, and may result, eventually, in restaurant food information.

But between now and then, we all have to go on making choices. I try to stay around 500 to 600 calories per meal in order to lose one-half to three-fourths of a pound each week. By old-time diet standards, that's a lot of calories and a slow rate of weight loss. But slow is OK with me. I'm working on portion-control-for-life, so I can include all my favorite foods.

When I eat out, I assume that, portion for portion, everything has twice as many calories as if I made it at home. My reasoning rests on two practices. One, I'm very careful about adding butter, margarine, mayonnaise and cooking oils when I'm in charge. But people who cook for the public know fat tastes good, so they tend to be generous in order to please. And, I weigh and measure my food at home to get portions right. So I remind myself to think about portion sizes before I order.

Strategies I used one weekend:

I wanted hot chocolate when I came in from skiing, so I built a light lunch. I estimate that my 12 ounces of hot chocolate, bowl of beef vegetable soup, four saltines and an apple added up to 644 calories and 23 grams of fat.

Saturday night we had dinner at a seafood restaurant. I had broiled fish, baked potato, salad with dressing on the side, an apricot brandy and three bites of a chocolate dessert. I have no idea how many calories I ate, but that's what I wanted. I used about one-fourth of the salad dressing, and brought home half the fish and half the potato for dinner Sunday night.

Sunday at the mall, Ted and I bought one entree and shared it. We had grilled chicken dark meat over rice with a little sauce, and a side order of steamed green beans. He added a side of potatoes that included some fat. I had a taste. Again, I don't know how many calories I ate, but the portion sizes looked about right. And I was still a little hungry when I finished. That's a good sign.

For estimating portion sizes when you're eating out, "ADA's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide" offers these rules of thumb:

Three ounces of meat, chicken or fish are about the size of a deck of playing cards, or the palm of a woman's hand.

One-half cup of fruit, vegetable, pasta or rice is about the size of a small fist.

One ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb.

One cup of milk, yogurt and chopped fresh greens is about the size of a small hand holding a tennis ball.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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