Monday, June 27, 2011

Eating Low Cal at Restaurants

I was just inspired by a client to write this entry on restaurant food, since this scenario is one I see so often.  She has been working so hard for quite some time, training her ass off 5 days a week.  She wasn't having much luck getting the pounds to come off by just making healthy choices, so I had her keep a food journal for a few days to see whats going on.  In her defense, she really was making an honest effort to make good choices most of the time.  With the volume of her training, even a few indiscretions should not have had much impact on her weight loss.  As with many past clients, there was a fair amount of restaurant fare in the journal.  A salad was listed from a popular chain restaurant that seemed pretty innocuous, including chicken breast and almonds as a garnish.  Upon further research, this seemingly healthful salad packs over 1300 calories and almost 1000 mg sodium.  A SALAD.  For a dieting female, this is not much less than an entire days' worth of calories and sodium.  Another item listed was a margarita, "just one".  Well, one 12 oz marg has roughly 540 calories.....all of it from alcohol and sugar.  That sure makes a big dent in the daily allotment!  To lose weight, there needs to be a deficit in calories each day so the body looks to its own stored fuel for energy.  Moreover, its also believed that only so much fuel (calories) can be assimilated in one sitting, meaning your body will use say, 300 calories of what you consume right away....guess where the rest goes?  Storage.  Alcohol is tricky too, it can halt the weight loss process because it is a "preferred' fuel source.  All fat burning comes to a screeching halt until every last bit of that booze is metabolized out of the system.  It gets first dibs over protein, carbs and fats.  In my work in nutrition consulting, I have done quite a bit of research on the different restaurants, scouring their nutritional information and trying to find healthy options for people "in a pinch".  I can honestly say, I have had very little luck, and it is unfortunate because many people don't like to cook, don't know how, or don't make time.  We really all need to learn to do some "basic survival" cooking so as to not be at the mercy of the restaurant industry.  I'm hard pressed to find even a salad at any of the major chains that clocks in under 900 calories.  We also don't see whats really going on in the kitchen.  Busy chefs cook multiple foods together on the same skillet often dousing the surface with ladles of oil to keep things from burning....and adding hundreds of calories to foods that would normally be low cal.  The only way to control what goes in your food is to make it yourself.