Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dining Out

One of the hardest parts of eating healthy is learning how to "Dine Out" with friends and family and still remain "on plan". Life as an American happens to focus around getting together with friends and eating. It is just second nature for us. Social functions all too often gather around food and most often food that others prepare, often leaving us wondering how it was prepared and what all of the ingredients are.

As a Weight Watcher® I do benefit from the fact that I can eat anything, as long as it's counted in my points. I don't have to eat prepackaged food. But dining out can often pose some issues, especially if you end up going to some place very UN-healthy (buffets kill me), it gets even worse.

So what's a healthy eater to do?

Re-learn "Dining Out" techniques. Re-learn how to find the lower point, fresher, healthier foods, even if they're hidden amongst the high fat, high calorie, low taste options!

This past week seemed to be one of those weeks that I was just running non-stop. End result, nearly every meal was done in a restaurant. Sometimes it was easy, other times it was very difficult.

One of my absolute most despised places to dine is an "All You Can Eat" buffet. I'm sorry, I'm not up for mediocre, at best, food in huge quantities. Points wasted, taste buds abused and in my opinion money wasted. Unfortunately, friends all too often want to do the buffet and you end up having to go for it.

The other day, we ate at Golden Coral. To me, this place is a joke in the food industry. I know many just love this place but I'm pretty certain it is because they prefer quantity over quality. That's definitely not how I eat any more, although I must confess I've rarely preferred quantity over quality when it comes to eating. GC offers beef that I'm pretty sure was found laying on the side of the road instead of in a field. Fat content so intense that while they grill the "all you can eat steak" flames are so bad they have water containers to keep them down. End result, a completely charred, over cooked, hunk of fat with an ounce of edible meat at best. Half the time it's even half raw on the inside while the outside is so charred you can't begin to eat it! Worth the points? Hardly! Add to that the buffet itself, which is loaded with fat laden, high carb, starchy, tasteless side dishes. If I'm going to waste points it's going to be on something so decadent I'm going to say "it was worth it". Starchy, tasteless glue like substances, created to look like dishes they claim to be. That's not going on my plate!

So what do you end up doing?

For me, I loaded up at salad bar first. My "appetizers" consisted of simply veggies, a few of them even looked like they were supposed to and not all brown or withered! A small, slightly plain, salad helped fill the empty spot keeping me from grabbing unhealthy items to fill the void.

Fill up with the obvious healthy choices. To some it may sound like torment, but to me.. when I saw the options on the buffet itself I knew it would provide the most flavor for the least points. Some of the items on the salad bar weren't too bad. While the choice of fat free dressings was limited to one, I suffered it out. A nice sized salad, good start at keeping on track.

Time for a "main dish". What are some of the best choices? It's an obvious fact that most of the choices are not going to be real "point friendly". I found some chicken that wasn't loaded with butter or breading and happens to be the only one thing I enjoy at this particular buffet.. Bourbon Chicken. I took about 1/4 cup for a serving (one large serving spoonful), & while I didn't know the exact points I was pretty sure I stuck to about 3pts total or less.

Generally you can find some type of boneless, skinless chicken to load onto your plate while avoiding the very low end beef options they have that are, at best, 30% fat. Avoid the beef dishes if you can. Meatloaf was offered on the buffet but I could see by it laying in it's own puddle of grease that it had to be very high in fat content, not a good ground beef that was low fat. The steak they offered was not trimmed at all. I trimmed the fat off the one piece I was given and end result was literally 2 bites of true steak without all the fat. Definitely not worth wasting my points on. The roast they had was just as fatty, not an option for me either. Ribs were being grilled too but to be honest they didn't even look good. I passed.

"Side dishes" were not as easy. The general consensus at a buffet seems to be if it looks like paste and resembles the color of what we are calling it, it can be a side dish. I found some "roasted" veggies that actually were in a pot roast dish. The pot roast was seriously about 60% fat with a little meat and gravy; however, the veggies were awesome and while I'm sure they had a few extra calories and fat, getting them roasted gave them a little flavor and the veggies themselves made it a lower in points than most other sides they offered. I was happy with that choice rather than trying to eat one of those paste like side dishes they had!

"Dessert" is my weakness. What I tried to do here at the buffet was remind myself that what THEY call dessert and what I would call dessert, flavor wise, would not even be REMOTELY close to the same. I scanned their dessert bar for options. They had tons of stuff, none of it was truly too awesome looking to me, so I decided to ask about their "ice cream". I was glad I did. The "ice cream" is actually an "ice milk", lower in fat. I had a nice size dish (about the equivalent of a McDonald's ice cream cone) with a teaspoon of chocolate coating (the one that gets hard and makes it's own shell). To be honest, this was the best option I saw all night and probably the most point friendly! Odd, but true!

End result:
  • Definitely a "less than desirable" eating adventure
  • Stayed well within points
  • Was "full" enough to be "satisfied"
  • Remembered why I hate buffets & their less than edible foods with more than desired calories & fat!

So it wasn't a total loss. I was reminded of why I am now eating the way I am. I was given a challenge that I conquered.

I'm hoping that my techniques and ability to make better choices will help someone else out there in the same spot. Hey, if I can do it, you can do it! AND we can do it TOGETHER!