Written By: Emma Squillace
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and if you’re watching your weight, you likely have already planned to avoid the box of chocolate – but there are other ways calories can sneak up on you on this holiday. Whether you have a romantic date night planned, or are fitting in a fun dinner with your friends, the calories can add up when you go out to a restaurant. However, with a little planning you can enjoy a nice Valentine’s Day dinner without worrying that you’ll ruin your weight loss efforts. Here are some tips for how to make healthy choices:
Start right: skip the bread
The bread basket on the table can be a diet-buster before the meal even comes. If there’s bread already there, ask the waiter nicely to take it away. Of it they bring rolls to you, say you’ll skip it. Instead, try to drink two full glasses of water before the meal starts. If you’re worried you’re heading to dinner feeling very hungry and will be too tempted by bread, snack on some plain air-popped popcorn before you go to dinner. With about 30 calories per cup, this snack can help subside your hunger.
Appetizer or dessert?
At the beginning of the meal, decide if you’re going to have an appetizer OR dessert. It’s even better if you can decide with your dinner date. Sharing an appetizer, or sharing a dessert, is a good way to feel satisfied and cut calories. If you commit to either one or the other before the meal starts, you’re less likely to be tempted to order dessert even though you’re full. Many appetizers seem like “small plates” but can come in at 500 – 1000+ calories. Same with desserts, of course, which are high in sugar and fat.
If you want to have a glass of wine or a cocktail with your dinner, there are some choices that are better than others. All alcohol is a form of sugar, so calories are inevitable. However, if you have a mixed drink you may consume a lot more calories than you expect. A rum & coke, cosmopolitan, chocolate martini, or buttered rum can add hundreds of calories per drink. To stay on track, think about a glass of champagne or a vodka-soda (each under 100 calories). Many places have a selection of infused vodkas, so try one of those flavors over ice. They’re a good choice because the flavor isn’t relying on juice, syrup, or other high-calorie mixers. Most standard wines have 125 – 150 calories per serving, making them another good choice with reasonable calories for one glass.
A salad can be a good way to start a meal, if you watch out for toppings and dressings. Nuts, cheese and croutons can turn a 150-calorie salad into a 450-calorie salad easily. For dressings, any type of vinaigrette or other non-cream based dressing is usually a good option. The dressings to avoid are Caesar, ranch, and blue cheese.
The majority of restaurants serve very large entrees. One way to quickly cut calories is to split an entree with your dinner date, or set half aside to take home. In general, lean proteins are good options. You’ll also want to be careful of the cooking method used. Anything grilled or broiled is usually a better choice than something breaded or fried. Be careful of cream sauces and high sugar glazes too. Those can add a lot of hidden calories to your meal. If your entrée comes with a fried side dish or a high carb mashed potatoes, some restaurants will let you request a steamed veggie side instead.
If you decided at the beginning of the meal that you’d get a dessert instead of an appetizer, now’s the time to check out your options. If the restaurant has sorbet, that can be a good choice even though it tends to be high in sugar. If you opt for something warm like pie, try having small bites of the filling and skipping most of the crust. Also ask for no ice cream or whipped cream to be served with it. You may also be satisfied with a decaf cappuccino instead. It will provide a warm, comforting finish to your meal without loads of sugar.
It’s easy to feel like you need to deprive yourself when you’re losing weight, but it’s important to have indulgences now and then. With some planning you can have nice Valentine’s Day dinner and not worry that you’re off track. At West Medical we know the struggle to lose weight, and we know with education, support, and balance, your success is possible. We specialize in helping people lose weight and regain energy. Please call our offices at (855) 690-0565 if you’d like to learn about our surgical and non-surgical treatments.