When I moved into my first apartment, my mother so thoughtfully bought me a full set of beautiful stainless steel pots and pans. They’re so nice. Really. And they sit in my cabinets collecting dust, except for the occasional night I’ll pull out a pot to boil pasta or steam vegetables.

Who likes to cook for one person? Who has time? Like most twentysomethings I know, I eat out at restaurants more than I cook. The problems with that are: 1. Restaurants are expensive. 2. Portions are way oversized 3. I often eat out late at night. Given that pattern and those problems, in about 10 years, I’ll weigh 450 pounds and be flat broke.

Time for a bit of preventative maintenance. I have started to pay attention to what I eat and how much I spend at restaurants. I found a few easy ways to make eating out a healthier experience. Here are some suggestions to make wise choices at restaurants that will save money and shrink your waistline.

[SKIP THE BREAD]

I know, I know. This is hard. It’s one of the worst foods you can put in your mouth in terms of fat and calories. (Flour is bad.) When you get to the restaurant, pop a stick of mint gum or candy in your mouth and the temptation to dive into the bread will lessen.

[DRINK PLENTY OF WATER]

It helps quench the hunger pangs. Plus, you’ll skip out on all the extra sugar, caffeine and calories from soft drinks, which are marked up 200 percent from their retail value in restaurants anyway.

[AVOID FRIED FOODS]

Especially late at night. Every restaurant has a salad. Order low calorie or fat free dressing (on the side) and you have a completely guiltless dining experience. Other choices to look for on the menu are grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and fruit. Some restaurants have a “guiltless” menu, or you could simply ask the waiter what some of their healthier menu items are.

[HALF YOUR FOOD]

You’ll end up paying about $5 instead of $10. (Given the number of times twentysomethings eat out in a month, imagine how much we’d save.) If you don’t have a friend or date to half your meal, request a to-go box before you start eating to take the other half home for lunch the next day. Removing the food from your plate before you eat will prevent you from munching on leftovers after you’re stuffed.

[SLOW DOWN]

Since you’ve ordered less, if you eat quickly, you’ll be done before everyone else and be looking around for more. Slow down, enjoy your food and stop when you feel comfortable. If you’re like me, chances are you’re full, but you’re so used to overeating, you don’t realize when to stop before you’re uncomfortable. Give it 10 minutes and your stomach will feel satisfied.

[FORGET DESSERT]

Don’t even think about dessert, unless they have a low-fat sorbet or fruit. Topping off your meal with sweets multiplies the fat and sugar content of your meal. Good luck trying to work that off in the gym the next week!

Lately the media has reported numerous studies and warnings about the deterioration of Americans’ health due to obesity. Some estimates say approximately one quarter of the U.S. population is considered obese (Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine). In February, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) reported a worldwide obesity epidemic. The government is even trying to intervene on behalf of our growing population of
overweight children

. And the IRS says medical treatment for obesity is now
tax-deductible

.

Obesity puts you at greater risk to develop cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes, while also making way for potential problems such as high cholesterol and all that jazz. Not that you haven’t heard all of that before. But many of us fail to make any changes in lifestyle until something drastic happens, like having a heart attack or developing high cholesterol or diabetes. When we’re young, we can live on McDonald’s three nights of the week, but we are getting older and our metabolism is bound to slow down. Don’t let your health break down with it.

RELATED LINKS:


OBESITY HARDER ON HEALTH THAN SMOKING


MIDDLE-AGE AMERICANS FACE 90 PERCENT RISK OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE


SURGEON GENERAL’S REPORT PUTS AMERICA ‘ON TRACK’


WATCHING TV CAN MAKE YOU FAT


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