For the past several weeks, with out of town travels, house guests and the everyday grind of work, I’ve relied on quick, fast food…which I thought was healthy.
On my way to work, I’d stop by Wendy’s and pick up a Southwest Taco salad…thinking that fresh cut lettuce, tomatoes, low fat chili and a sprinkling of cheese would be a much better and healthier choice than a burger with fries. I even looked at the list of ingredients on the salad dressing…an entire package totalled less than 100 calories…so how bad could one salad be? I’d leave off the low-fat sour cream and the nacho strips and believed that this meal would keep me well within my daily caloric allowance of 1500 to 1800 calories.
But boy, was a wrong!
When I finally got a free moment to just relax and think, I decided to take an inventory of my eating habits and went online to view the restaurant’s nutritional data. I scrolled down the list and found the Southwest Taco salad…in all of its glory, with salad dressing, nacho strips, chili and sour cream, the “healthy choice” topped out at 770 calories…a little less than half of my calories for the day! And I thought I was doing well with my eating.
But oh, how we can be deceived…and how we can deceive ourselves.
Intellectually, I knew better than to believe that a fast food restaurant would take portion-size and caloric restriction into account when preparing “healthier” options such as salads and wraps. Shredded cheese is not measured by the serving size but tossed over the lettuce without regard to portion control.
Food options are not already proportioned as meals containing no more than 1/3 or 1/4 of your daily caloric allowance.
By eating salad (even if it’s laden with calorie-rich condiments or dressings) we all fall into a false sense of comfort. We believe that we’re eating healthy and open ourselves to the occasional dietary indiscretion or splurge. We say to ourselves, “I had a salad for lunch, so I can definitely afford to eat this small slice of pie or small scoop of ice cream.” No matter how well-intentioned we are, we can all fall prey to unhealthy food choices.
You’re not alone and we can fight this battle together.
Here are 3 easy steps to follow when it comes to sticking with your food plan when you’re caught eating out:
1. Weigh your options. This step requires some preparation. If you know you’re going to meet up for lunch or dinner at a new restaurant, search online and see if they have a sample menu available. Make a short list of those items that sound interesting and may fall within your food plan. When you get to the restaurant, don’t be afraid to make the meal “your way” by requesting high-calorie items (like sauces and dressings) on the side. You’re paying for it, so you should get it just like you want it.
2. Stick to your guns. Don’t be tempted by what someone else is eating…so order first. If you see one of your friends going down with the ship and ordering the most decadent, creamy and sugary item on the menu, don’t fret. You’re either going to pay now (by missing out on those 1000 extra calories that you don’t intend on burning off) or you’re going to pay later (with those extra unwanted pounds)…but I can assure you this one thing…YOU WILL PAY!
3. Less is better. The simplier the ingredient list, the easier the preparation, the smaller the portion size…the better. Grilled fish with steamed asparagus is simple, it’s clean and it’s a whole lot healthier than baked fish with crab and cheese stuffing and a side of sour cream whipped potatoes over a bed of creamy spinach.
You see the difference…Simple versus Complex. Healthy versus Calorie-rich. In-control versus Over-indulgent.
So learn from me, The Health and Wellness Queen, don’t forget the basics. Know exactly what you’re eating.
Keep a food diary and actually take an inventory every once in a while.
And keep striving. Healthy living is not a sprint…it’s a marathon!
To your wellness,
Dr. Traci Ferguson, The Health and Wellness Queen