Even if we think we’re making healthy menu selections, eating out can be hard on our waistline.

The problem is restaurant portions. Nutrition researchers found that more than nine out of ten eateries serve entrees that far exceed the suggested calorie limit for one meal.

Piling It On

Not including appetizers, beverages, or dessert, the 364 restaurants researchers investigated served an average of 1,200 calories per meal. That’s a lot when you consider the recommended lunch or dinner calorie intake for women is 570.

Many types of local and large chain restaurants were involved in this study including Italian, American, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and Mexican. The most calorie-heavy meals, averaging 1,495 calories per entree, were served at American, Italian, and Chinese establishments.

Avoiding Excess Calories

For those losing weight to achieve better blood glucose control, or simply to fit in last year’s swimsuit, all these tasty restaurant calories can quickly become unwanted pounds.

To avoid these excess cafe calories consider eating at home more of the time, and when you do go out think about sharing meals. Most restaurant fare can easily feed two people—often there is enough for three. You might also:

  • Skip the sugary beverages, ask the wait staff not to serve a bread basket, and if you must have a dessert, split it with at least one person.
  • Instead of ordering a dinner, choose one or two items from the side menu, or dine on one of the healthier appetizers, or ask whether you can select from the children’s menu.
  • If you order a full meal for yourself, decide ahead of time to take half the entree home with you.
  • When scanning the menu options, keep in mind the average U.S. male needs about 2,500 calories daily, women about 2,000, and consider what you have already eaten that day.
  • Elevate your dining pleasure by putting the fork down between bites and chewing your food slowly, savoring each mouthwatering morsel; and stop eating before you feel stuffed.
  • Though many of us might prefer the bliss of caloric ignorance, some restaurant menus list the calorie content of their entrees—a helpful weight management tool to look for.
  • We all love to get a lot for our dining dollar, and hate throwing away good food, but it may be better to let the calories our body doesn’t need go to waste, instead of to our waist. Sometimes less is more.

    Source: Mayo Clinic
    Photo credit: Jeremy Keithy