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posted: 4/22/2013 6:00 AM

Your health: Dining out do's and don'ts

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  • Eating out can be tough when you're on a diet, but some tips can help you survive it.

      Eating out can be tough when you're on a diet, but some tips can help you survive it.

  • Buffets are hard when you are watching your portion sizes and trying to eat healthy.

      Buffets are hard when you are watching your portion sizes and trying to eat healthy.


Dieting, dining out

Navigating restaurant menus while trying to lose weight can be confusing and nightmarish. From hidden ingredients to calorie-laden temptations, the challenges quickly pile up, says The Washington Post.

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To help people stick to their goals, Reader's Digest has published the pocket-size "Digest Diet Dining Out Guide," by Liz Vaccariello, which includes tips for ordering healthful meals and spotting the best options on a menu. The book is searchable by type of cuisine, from sushi to deli sandwiches, as well as by restaurant, with specific recommendations for dining at such national chains as the Cheesecake Factory, Five Guys and Starbucks.

The guide also includes portable snack ideas, suggestions for eating at fast-food restaurants and a comparison chart to estimate portion sizes.

Surviving a buffet

All-you-can-eat buffets are a boon for hungry, thrifty diners and a nightmare for dieters or those trying to maintain a healthy weight, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you are in the latter camp, here are two tips from Brian Wansink, the master of mindful eating:

• Take a walk around the entire buffet to scope out your options before serving yourself.

• Put your food on a small plate instead of a big one.

Wansink, professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University, and colleague Mitsuru Shimizu led a team of 30 trained observers to watch more than 300 men and women in two dozen all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant buffets and unobtrusively record six specific activities: how quickly the diners served themselves; choice of plate size; location of table; whether they faced the buffet; eating utensils used; and where they placed their napkin.

Diners who surveyed the buffet before serving themselves and those who used smaller plates made fewer trips to the buffet and so ate less.

"Consistent with the idea that small changes might lessen one's tendency to overeat, deliberative thought about what to serve oneself, and using a smaller plate, may reduce overeating in buffets," they write in the April 2013 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In an earlier study, the Cornell team showed that buffet diners with higher BMI tended to serve before surveying, used larger plates, sat facing the buffet and used forks instead of chopsticks.

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