SF: Maintaining Your Weight When Out and About

Importance of Making Healthy Choices While Eating On the Go

According to the National Restaurant Association, American adults buy a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week, on average. If you are watching your weight, it’s hard to always know what calories, fats, and nutrients are in the dishes you order. We hope this information will provide you with some common sense tips to help you choose healthier options while eating “on the go”. On the go is when someone else cooks for you and you do not control the ingredients. It can be anything from a deli sandwich, takeout Chick-fil-A, a buffet, or a meal in a restaurant.

Why Is a Healthy Weight Important?

Reaching and maintaining your healthy weight is good for your overall health. It also may help reduce your risk for developing several diseases and conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight has many other benefits, including feeling good about yourself, having more confidence and having more energy to enjoy life.

A person’s weight is the result of many things: height, genes, metabolism, behavior, and environment. Maintaining a healthy weight requires keeping a balance. You must balance the calories you get from food and beverages (energy IN) with the calories you use to keep your body going and being physically active (energy OUT). Yes, beverages count so try to stay away from sugary soda and diet soda. Those empty calories are not your friend!

The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time = weight stays the same
More IN than OUT over time = weight gain
More OUT than IN over time = weight loss

 

Sounds simple – right? Keep in mind that your energy IN and energy OUT doesn’t have to balance exactly every day. That would be almost impossible to accomplish. But it’s the balance over time that will help you maintain your ideal weight in the long run. For many people, this balance means eating fewer calories and increasing physical activity. Cutting back on calories is a matter of choice. Making healthy food choices that are lower in fats, especially saturated and trans fats, as well as cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar, can help you cut back on calories, as can paying attention to portion size. This guide will provide you with information to make informed food choices, particularly when eating out, to help you maintain a healthy weight.

How To Lose Weight and Maintain It

We have all heard the facts … to lose weight, you must eat less and move more. But this is often easier said than done. Many people make repeated attempts, often using different fad diets and weight loss gimmicks, and are unsuccessful.

To be successful at weight loss, you need to adopt a new lifestyle. This means making changes such as adopting healthy eating habits, being more physically active, and learning how to change behaviors.

Healthy Eating Plan
A healthy eating plan includes foods from all the basic food groups. It is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar. It contains enough calories for good health, but not so many that you gain weight.

A Healthy Eating Plan:
   ∼ Controls portion size
   ∼ Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
   ∼ Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
   ∼ Is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar

 

Choosing Healthier Foods

Foods That Make a Healthy Eating Plan

A healthy eating plan is one that gives your body the nutrients it needs every day while staying within your daily calorie limits. This eating plan also may lower your risk for heart disease and conditions such as high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol.

Foods that can be eaten more often include those that are lower in calories, total fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium (salt).

Examples of these foods include fat-free and low-fat milk products (read the fat-free and low-fat labels – they often have hidden fructose); lean meats, fish, and poultry; high-fiber foods such as whole grains, breads, and cereals; fruits; and vegetables. Canola or olive oils and soft margarines made from these oils are heart healthy and can be used in moderate amounts. Unsalted nuts also can be included in a healthy diet, as long as you watch the amount.

Foods higher in fat are typically higher in calories. Foods that should be limited include those with higher amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. These particular fats may raise blood cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease.

  • Saturated fat is found mainly in fresh and processed meats, high-fat milk products (such as cheese, whole milk, cream, butter, and ice cream), lard, and the coconut and palm oils that can be found in many processed foods.
  • Trans fat is found in foods with partially hydrogenated oils, such as many hard margarines and shortening, commercially fried foods, and some bakery goods.
  • Cholesterol is found in foods of animal origin. Major dietary sources include egg yolks, organ meats, cheese, beef, pork, and shrimp. It also may be present in foods that contain an animal-based ingredient, such as eggs, whole milk, or lard.

It’s also important to limit foods and beverages with added fat and sugar, such as many  desserts, canned fruit packed in syrup, fruit drinks, and sugar-sweetened beverages. These  foods and beverages will add calories to your diet while providing limited nutritional benefit. Avoid diet drinks and sodas as much as possible. A glass of water is the perfect and most refreshing drink for many meals.

Fat Matters

But Calories Count

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from fat or carbohydrate. Any calories eaten in excess can lead to weight gain. You can lose weight by eating fewer calories and by increasing your physical activity.

Reducing the amount of total fat and saturated fat that you eat is one way to limit your overall calorie intake. In fact, 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories, whereas 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate equals less than half the number of calories (4 calories each). By reducing total fat intake, you help reduce your calorie intake.

Nutrition Label
However, eating fat-free or reduced fat foods isn’t always the answer to reducing your calories. This is especially true when you eat more of the reduced-fat food than you would of the regular item. Many food companies produce fat-free versions of foods that have more calories than the regular versions. For example, if you eat twice as many fat-free cookies, you have increased your overall calorie intake. The following list of foods and their reduced-fat varieties will show you that just because a product is fat-free, that doesn’t mean it is “calorie free.” And remember, calories do count!

Eat Healthy

Fat-Free or Reduced Fat

Regular

Calories Calories
Reduced fat peanut butter, 2 Tbsp 187 Regular peanut butter, 2 Tbsp 191
Cookies: Cookies:
Reduced fat chocolate chip cookies, 3 cookies (30 g) 118 Regular chocolate chip cookies, 3 cookies (30 g) 142
Fat-free fig cookies, 2 cookies (30 g) 102 Regular fig cookies, 2 cookies (30 g) 111
Ice cream: Ice cream:
Fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
(<1% fat), ½ cup
100 Regular whole milk vanilla frozen yogurt (3-4% fat), ½ cup 104
Light vanilla ice cream (7% fat), ½ cup 111 Regular vanilla ice cream (11% fat), ½ cup 133
Fat-free caramel topping, 2 Tbsp 103 Caramel topping, homemade with butter, 2 Tbsp 103
Low-fat granola cereal, approx. ½ cup (55 g) 213 Regular granola cereal, approx. ½ cup (55 g) 257
Low-fat blueberry muffin, 1 small (2½ inch) 131 Regular blueberry muffin, 1 small (2½ inch) 138
Baked tortilla chips, 1 oz 113 Regular tortilla chips, 1 oz 143
Low-fat cereal bar, 1 bar (1.3 oz) 130 Regular cereal bar, 1 bar (1.3 oz) 140

 

Lower Calorie, Lower Fat

Alternatives

The table that follows provides some examples of healthier alternatives for old favorites. When making a food choice, remember to consider vitamins and minerals. Some foods provide most of their calories from sugar and fat, but give you few, if any, vitamins and minerals so basically, your body can’t do much with the energy they provide.

The suggested alternatives are not meant to be an exhaustive list.

If a product’s package has a Nutrition Label, read it to find out just how many calories, vitamins, and minerals are in the specific products you are thinking of buying.

Bathroom Scale and Tape MeasureOnce you are comfortable identifying foods that are lower in fat and calories, you will be able to make healthier choices when eating when you are out and about. Your reward will be the results you’ll see on the scale and you’ll feel better too.

 

Here are a few healthy substitutions you can live with

But don’t stop with these, create your own healthy substitutions.

Instead of… Replace with…
Dairy Products Evaporated whole milk Evaporated fat-free (skim) or reduced fat (2%) milk
Whole milk Low-fat (1%), reduced fat (2%), or fat-free (skim) milk
Ice cream Sorbet, sherbet, low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt, or ice milk (choose lowest calorie variety)
Whipping cream Imitation whipped cream (made with fat-free (skim) milk) or low-fat vanilla yogurt
Sour cream Plain low-fat yogurt
Cream cheese Neufchatel or “light” cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
Cheese (cheddar, American, Swiss, jack) Reduced calorie cheese, low-calorie processed cheeses, etc.; fat-free cheese
Regular (4%) cottage cheese Low-fat (1%) or reduced fat (2%) cottage cheese
Whole milk mozzarella cheese Part skim milk, low moisture mozzarella cheese
Whole milk ricotta cheese Part skim milk ricotta cheese
Coffee cream (half and half) or nondairy creamer (liquid, powder) Low-fat (1%) or reduced fat (2%) milk or fat-free dry milk powder
Cereals, Grains, and Pasta Ramen noodles Rice or noodles (spaghetti, macaroni, etc.)
Pasta with white sauce (alfredo) Pasta with red sauce (marinara)
Pasta with cheese sauce Pasta with vegetables (Primavera)
Granola Bran flakes, crispy rice, etc.

Cooked grits or oatmeal

Whole grains (couscous, barley, bulgur, etc.)

Reduced fat granola (choose lowest calorie variety)

Meat, Fish, and Poultry Cold cuts or lunch meats (bologna, salami, liverwurst, etc.) Low-fat cold cuts (95% to 97% fat-free lunch meats, low-fat pressed meats)
Hot dogs (regular) Lower fat hot dogs
Bacon or sausage Canadian bacon or lean ham
Regular ground beef Extra lean ground beef such as ground round or ground turkey (read labels)
Chicken or turkey with skin, duck, or goose Chicken or turkey without skin (white meat)
Oil-packed tuna Water-packed tuna (rinse to reduce sodium content)
Beef (chuck, rib, brisket) Beef (round, loin) trimmed of external fat (choose select grades)
Pork (spareribs, untrimmed loin) Pork tenderloin or trimmed, lean smoked ham
Frozen breaded fish or fried fish (homemade or commercial) Fish or shellfish, unbreaded (fresh, frozen, canned in water)
Whole eggs Egg whites or egg substitutes
Frozen dinners (containing more than 13 grams of fat per serving) Frozen dinners (containing less than 13 grams of fat per serving and lowest in sodium)
Chorizo sausage Turkey sausage, drained well (read label) Vegetarian sausage (made with tofu)
Baked Goods Croissants, brioches, etc. Hard french rolls or soft “brown ’n serve” rolls
Donuts, sweet rolls, muffins, scones, or pastries English muffins, bagels, reduced fat or fat-free muffins or scones
Party crackers Low-fat crackers (choose lower in sodium)

Saltine or soda crackers (choose lowest in sodium)

Cake (pound, chocolate, yellow) Cake (angel food, white, gingerbread)
Cookies Reduced fat or fat-free cookies (graham crackers, ginger snaps, fig bars) (choose lowest calorie variety)
Snacks and Sweets Nuts Popcorn (air-popped or light microwave), fruits, vegetables
Ice cream, e.g., cones or bars Frozen yogurt, frozen fruit, or chocolate pudding bars
Custards or puddings (made with whole milk) Puddings (made with skim milk)
Fats, Oils, and Salad Dressings Regular margarine or butter Light-spread margarines, diet margarine, or whipped
butter, tub or squeeze bottle
Regular mayonnaise Light or diet mayonnaise or mustard
Regular salad dressings Reduced calorie or fat-free salad dressings, lemon juice, or plain, herb-flavored, or wine vinegar
Butter or margarine on toast or bread Jelly, jam, or honey on bread or toast
Oils, shortening, or lard Nonstick cooking spray for stir-frying or sautéing
As a substitute for oil or butter, use applesauce or prune puree in baked goods
Miscellaneous Canned cream soups Canned broth-based soups
Canned beans and franks Canned baked beans in tomato sauce
Gravy (homemade with fat and/or milk) Gravy mixes made with water or homemade with the fat skimmed off and fat-free milk included
Fudge sauce Chocolate syrup
Avocado on sandwiches Cucumber slices or lettuce leaves
Guacamole dip or refried beans with lard Salsa

 

Keeping an Eye on
Portion Size

Eating fewer calories is not just about choosing healthier foods. It is also about eating less food and paying attention to portion size.

What’s the difference between a regular portion and a serving size?

Portion: A “portion” is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small — you decide.

Serving: A “serving” is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or 1 cup of milk. Read labels – some foods are packaged with more than a single serving. For example, a 20-ounce soda or a 3-ounce bag of chips is actually multiple servings.

To see typical portions for various foods, refer to the images below. Also, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate to find out how these food portions fit into a daily eating plan for your recommended calorie level.

Dish of Strawberries  Strawberries

½ cup  (½ cup equivalent of fruit)

Whole Grain Cereal  Whole-wheat cereal flakes

1 cup (1-ounce equivalent of whole grains)

Cold Glass of Milk  Milk

 8 fluid ounces (counts as 1 cup milk)

Grilled Sweet Potato

Grilled or Baked Sweet Potato

1 large (1 cup equivalent of orange vegetables)

What Do You Think
Share Your Thoughts With Us!

What is your favorite substitution when you eat fast-food ?

What about when you eat at a restaurant ?

What foods do you like that you would NEVER substitute a lower-calorie option ?

 

Thank you for taking time out of your day to visit with us. We hope you found some ways to cut calories while you are eating on the run and still have the foods you enjoy. Wishing you the best of health!

Sources:National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Aim for a Healthy Weight

Adapted from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Adapted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid, MyPyramid.gov (see https://www.choosemyplate.gov for additional info).

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Author: Joan E Wilder

We provide information and motivation focused on the importance of physical activity to our quality of life. It is our hope to help people invest in themselves by staying active throughout their lives. It's that important.

2 thoughts

  1. My wife is the foodie. My compromise is eating one meal out per week. I will sit with her to keep her company on other nights, but will not eat their foods. I prefer knowing exactly what goes into my mouth. Knowing the role quality food plays in overall health keeps me on the straight and narrow. If people were willing to modify their lifestyles, they would discover the process rewarding. In their minds they see this as personal deprivation. In reality it opens doors to opportunities for better quality living over longer periods of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe you are right Doctor when you say that people find it depriving but I also think that with everyone being so busy, finding the time to fix healthy meals is difficult. And time consuming. But as you say, eating out once a week wouldn’t be quite so strict.

      That is another reason why having a shopping list works best for me. It limits the temptations of buying unhealthy foods. Plus, if we could find the time to plan meals for the week, then the choices at home would be better and possibly even prepared ahead of time. That makes the temptation of eating out so often, well, a little less tempting.

      I’m always happy you stopped by Doctor – thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

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