The art of portion control when eating out

by Heather S. Zeitz, R.D., C.D.N.

Portion control eating outCan't stand to leave food on your plate or say, "no"? Think "more food equals more value?" Think again.

Oversized portions, particularly in restaurants are contributing to oversized adults and children. Obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic in the U.S.

By curbing portions of your favorite foods while eating out, you can enjoy them and still control calories.

Give these nine tips a try the next time you choose to eat out.

Nine ways to control your portions at restaurants

• Avoid buffets and "all-you-can-eat" restaurants. They make it too easy to overeat.

• At salad bars, fill your plate with lower-calorie greens and vegetables, and garnish with only small amounts of higher-calorie dishes. Higher fat dishes and ingredients include mayonnaise- or oil-based salads, eggs, cheeses, bacon, avocados and full-fat dressings. Remember: Just because it's at a salad bar doesn't mean it's low in calories!

• Steer clear of items that scream LARGE — giant, grande, supreme, extra-large, jumbo, double, triple, double-decker, king-size and super. Seek out portion descriptors that indicate moderation (and don't let them make you feel you're getting less value) — junior, single, queen-size, petite, kiddie and regular.

• Instead of ordering a main course, choose soup and a salad, or soup and an appetizer, or an appetizer and salad. Or order a half portion.

• Order a side dish of steamed veggies. Eat your veggies first — the fiber and water in these will fill you up so you don't overeat during the meal.

• Order from soup to dessert — but split everything down the middle with your dining partner.

• Order and eat "family-style," but request one or two fewer dishes than the number of people dining. Pass and share.

• If a huge dinner entree is set in front of you, slice off a reasonable portion and ask your waiter to put the remainder in a take-home container immediately — before you finish that reasonable portion and are tempted to start nibbling on the rest.

• Remember that most desserts have enough sugar and calories for two, or even three people. Order only one treat to share among friends.

• Sushi: Order half-rice or cucumber-wrapped rolls. Enjoy a meal of appetizers such as edamame, miso soup, salad with ginger dressing or yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).

• Chinese: Order steamed meals such as chicken and mixed vegetables with 1/2 cup brown rice. Pour 1/2 cup hot-and-sour soup on top and mix.

• Italian: For lunch, try a large bowl of vegetable- or bean-based soup such as minestrone or pasta e fagiole. At dinner, choose grilled fish, chicken breast, pork tenderloin or sirloin cuts of beef with a double order of vegetables (replacing the pasta or other starch).

© 2012 Alere. All rights reserved. Last reviewed March 2012. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.