Eating out – Restaurant meals aren’t good for you.

A cheeky dinner out can be costly for your waistline.

Researchers from the University of Toronto examined the calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol levels of 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down restaurants around Canada. They found that the average meal has 1,128 calories. Given the average daily recommended intake for a British woman is 2,000 kcals, that’s over half used up at once.

Even worse, these meals are some of the unhealthiest you can eat. Another recent study looked at fast food in the US for the last 14 years. It showed that the nutritional value of the food available has pretty much remained the same, despite pledges to offer healthy choices.

Food from the companies included – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell,  KFC), Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen – were analysed and scored against a healthy eating index. In 1997 they scored 45/100. In 2009 that had risen to just 48/100. This was also compared to the average American’s diet, which scores 55/100.

So, food from restaurants is unhealthy and fattening. This isn’t surprising, but it shouldn’t be too worrying either – as long as your other meals are reduced in size accordingly. This is the problem for most of us; if meals out are normal, the other meals creep back up to standard sizes.So this is a Foodswap opportunity If restaurant food – (even a sandwich from Boots or Pret) are regulars in your diet. Reduce your meals-out frequency by bringing a lunchbox to work. Make your date night focus on a home-cooked meal, rather than one at a restaurant or the £10 Tesco deal.
A general focus away from pre-prepared food will help you set your own portion sizes and control your own calorific (and nutritional) inputs, leading to a healthier diet

Hunger Is Healthy

There’s a reason why when people are suggesting stopping for tea and cake, they usually say “fancy a snack?” rather than “are you hungry?”. Very few of us are hungry when we eat. It seems almost stupid to point this out, but – you should only eat when you’re hungry.

We’ve been trained to think of hunger as something to avoid at all costs – either by snacking or ‘grazing’, or by ignoring the signals because you’re “on a diet”. Some of us have done this for so long that we’ve forgotten what hunger feels like – our brains misinterpret other feelings, like thirst or boredom, as hunger.

Like I say time and time again, it’s only by being mindful – being aware – that you can change something. We’re meant to feel hungry at times. Most of us eat as routine, rather than because we need to at that time. There’s a way to relearn this, though. Paul McKenna suggests using a scale from 1-10 to place a value on your hunger:

Take a few moments right now to look at the hunger scale and tune in to your body. How hungry are you right now? Each person is different, but as a general rule, you want to eat whenever you notice yourself between 3 and 4 on the scale – that is when you are fairly hungry, but before you become ravenous. If you wait until you get down to one or two your body will go into starvation mode and you’ll end up probably eating more than your body needs and storing the excess as fat. Ideally, you’ll want to stop eating at right around 6 or 7 on the hunger scale – when you are feeling pleasantly satisfied or full but not yet stuffed or bloated.

McKenna’s hunger scale

  1. Physically faint
  2. Ravenous
  3. Fairly hungry
  4. Slightly hungry
  5. Neutral
  6. Pleasantly satisfied
  7. Full
  8. Stuffed
  9. Bloated
  10. Nauseous

Try to avoid the red zones altogether. By keeping in tune with your body, you’ll be much less likely to overeat.