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Eating Out Linked to Weight Gain

Order vegetables. And be mindful of the amounts you eat.

A report by the USDA Economic Research Service, (report number 90) found that eating one meal away from home a week worsens the quality of the diet and increases calorie intake. And depending on which meal you eat out (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), you will eat less fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or dairy, or more fat or saturated fat.

For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly 2 extra pounds each year. Although it is possible to incorporate [food away from home] into a healthy diet, for the average adult, one additional meal eaten away from home increases daily intake by about 134 calories.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

On one hand, it’s absolutely possible. During the holiday season, I read an article saying that holiday weight gain is exaggerated (less than 2 pounds), and that pigging out during weekends does more harm.

Pigging out at restaurants once a week also seems a plausible cause of slow, long-term, silent weight gain.

On the other hand, I can’t never eat out. Seriously. How many of you agree? There’s something fun about eating out: changing the routine, getting together with friends, or eating dishes difficult to make at home (sushi is our thing!). It’s not just merely the convenience, or the lack of time or skills to make food at home.

The report didn’t make a recommendation against eating out. It simply stated the facts. Knowledge is power. If you are concerned about where the weight came from the past 10 years, this might be the answer.

What are you going to do about this knowledge? Here are my 2 cents:

  • –Even if I only eat out once a week, it’s not a ticket to pig out. I will be mindful, select something that sounds satisfying to the taste buds, but I will stop when not hungry anymore–even if I don’t finish my whole plate
  • –I will have a meal that revolves around vegetables and fruits
  • I will ask for my vegetables to be cooked without butter
  • –I will order whole grains whenever possible
  • –I will skip the soda and stick to water
  • –I will balance out those extra 134 calories with lighter meals that day, a smaller or no snack, and a good walk

You might like to read: “Heading for the Open Buffet? 6 Strategies to Take Charge”

What are your 2 cents?

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Crystal's Cozy Kitchen February 24, 2010, 10:42 pm

    I use to LOVE eating out. Then we moved to a place with 4 sit down ‘restaurants’ in a 10 mile radius. The rest are fast food. One of the places is a JOKE (as in there is no way I would ever eat there again!) I would have to say it is a lot easier to not eat out now that my choices are limited.

    I think that if you make healthy choices when you eat out it is not that bad. Also, since portions are larger, make sure that you do not overeat by cutting portions in half and saving the rest for later (or sharing a meal with someone… not entirely looked at positively by some establishments.) Eating out should be done in moderation as well. If we think of it as a change in routine or for special occasions, then it should not be a daily event. It’s healthier that way. That’s my two cents.

  • Stef February 24, 2010, 11:12 pm

    if anything i need to eat out MORE often! i NEVER eat out, and i know this comes from a fear of unknown ingredients/calorie content, which is totally disordered! i think there is definitely a way to incorporate yummy restaurant meals into a healthy lifestyle, it’s all about balance! i’m really not a fan of articles that claim that doing xyz will results in x pounds gained per year! it’s simply not how the body works!

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 25, 2010, 9:07 am

    Thanks Crystal for the comment. Maybe the limited number of restaurants is working to your advantage, and dropping fast food restaurants from your options is a wise step to make. Thanks for sharing your tips.
    Nour

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 25, 2010, 9:11 am

    Stef: I agree with your about such reports, but they might be the click some people are looking for. Many eat very healthy, balanced diets, and it doesn’t cross their minds that one meal a week can sabotage their weight loss effort.

    You might know about that already, but have you checked Local Harvest? They list organic/ sustainable restaurants on their website. Here’s the link: http://www.localharvest.org/restaurants/

    Nour

  • Nicole, RD February 25, 2010, 1:54 pm

    Never? Won’t happen, but it makes sense. 2# a year seems like a lot though, and 1 meal out a week certainly isn’t much at all! Great post!

  • AI February 25, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Besides moderating how much you eat out, trying to order healthier food when you can is a good practical step. For example, whenever I visit Chipotle, I get the burrito-bowl and substitute the rice and beans with the fajita peppers and onions. I don’t feel bloated or have gas-trouble afterwards and it tastes great! Also, I try avoiding fries and soda at fast-food joints.

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 25, 2010, 3:40 pm

      Thanks AI. I’m so glad you brought up Chipotle! I get the burrito bowl too, with fajita vegetables and beans (some carbs are not bad, and beans are also a good source of protein and fiber). You might find this website interesting: http://www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=nutrition_calculator I don’ know who runs it or if their info is reliable, but you can see how the things you choose in your burrito add up

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 25, 2010, 3:35 pm

    Thanks Nicole. Yeas it’s interesting. One meal a week and boom you’re 2 pounds heavier at the end of the year. I can’t imagine what happens if someone eats out 3-4 times a week!

  • farah February 25, 2010, 3:45 pm

    I dont know if anyone is in the DC area, but I recently went to a restaurant called Founding Farmers… its an upscale sit down restaurant that’s menu entirely consists of locally grown or farmed, organic food. It was quiet delicious!!

    Are you kidding me?! eating out once a week and you are 2 pounds a year heavier.. that cant be true, it just can’t! I dont have the best eating practices, and I eat out entirely too much (with all meals i would say 5-7 times a week) and i don’t weigh 14 pounds more than i did 7 years ago!

    i dont like it when articles are presented in a manner that completely take other factors out of the equation!

  • farah February 26, 2010, 12:48 am

    i just realized it sounded like i was criticizing your article, but i wasnt, i was criticizing the report! ur article actually brings in my point, that other factors can influence it! šŸ™‚

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 26, 2010, 8:12 am

      Thanks for the comments! And thanks for sharing your opinion. That’s why I write šŸ™‚ As I said, reports like this may be an answer for unsolved weight struggles for some people, a source of information, something to think about for someone trying to eat healthier, or maybe motivation for families to eat less meals out. But I don’t think everyone is gaining 2 pounds a month from eating 1 meal out, and I don’t think we should never eat out. You are probably doing something that is helping you maintain weight without realizing it šŸ™‚ so you’re right, other factors do have an influence

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