Slowly savouring restaurant meals could benefit your waistline

Restaurant portion sizes and high-calorie preparations mean that we often consume more calories at the restaurant than we need, and also more than if we’d stayed home and prepared our own meal. As a result, people who eat out regularly are more likely to be overweight. Does this mean we should deprive ourselves from eating out if we want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight? Admittedly, this is not a very appealing option for food lovers, nor is it practical for many people who work outside the home. There is another option, however: mindful eating, which involves slowly savouring the foods in front of us and paying attention to the pleasure and fullness they provide.

Restaurant portion sizes and high-calorie preparations mean that we often consume more calories at the restaurant than we need, and also more than if we’d stayed home and prepared our own meal. As a result, people who eat out regularly are more likely to be overweight. Does this mean we should deprive ourselves from eating out if we want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight? Admittedly, this is not a very appealing option for food lovers, nor is it practical for many people who work outside the home. There is another option, however: mindful eating, which involves slowly savouring the foods in front of us and paying attention to the pleasure and fullness they provide.

To demonstrate the benefits of this approach, 35 women of varying body sizes who ate out at least three times per week took part in a study. Half the women maintained their regular dining habits, while the other half were assigned to a six-week mindful eating program. The program consisted of weekly two-hour sessions in which an instructor taught the women how to limit their calorie intake in various types of restaurant and how to make healthier meal choices.

At the end of the program, the women in the mindful eating group were eating out just as often, but they’d lost an average of 1.4 kg and were eating about 300 fewer calories per day. No change was observed in the group that did not take part in the program. Paying attention to what and how we eat could therefore help us lose weight.

Here are some tips for re-learning how to enjoy a good meal while taking care of our waistline:
- Think twice before ordering. For example, is that appetizer really necessary?
- Every calorie counts. Spend your “calorie budget” on your favourite food items and skip the high-calorie side dishes.
- If possible, ask for dressings and sauces to be served on the side so you can control how much you put on.
- Take a moment to take a look at your plate before you dig in. Is the plate too full for your appetite?
- Slow down! It can take up to 20 minutes before the signal for the feeling of fullness reaches your brain. Put your fork down once in a while. Are you really still hungry?

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