But It Comes With

“But it comes with…”

Since a key factor of weight loss is portion control, you need to get used to measuring cups, ounces and tablespoons of the foods you chose to eat. That’s pretty easy when you are in the privacy of your own home. But I love to eat in restaurants. How do you cope with the choices in a restaurant? It’s a bit of a challenge, but most diners and restaurants post their menus on their websites. Or you can find their offerings on allmenus.com. If you plan your day right, with a good workout added in, you can have a nice meal out without feeling particularly deprived – although you do have to approximate the portions unless you bring your measuring utensils with you, which could be a bit embarrassing.

But what happens when the meal “comes with” a whole bunch of extras? Many of us have difficulty turning down those extras, even the ones we wouldn’t normally eat. Maybe it comes from the years of being told by your parents to clean your plate. And, just like the standard approach to a fixed price buffet, there is the nagging sense that you won’t be getting your money’s worth if you don’t eat everything that you are offered.

For example, my favorite Spanish restaurant serves a complimentary plate of chopped up oysters, onions and pimentos as soon as you are seated. I don’t like oysters, but I would eat a couple because I felt it would be an insult not to. But you have to make choices. How many calories is an oyster that you’d never eat otherwise? Too many. Although sometimes, I explain to the waiter that I have a calorie limit and I want to save them for my meal. Mostly, now, I just don’t eat it – Or I ask them not to put the plate down on my table at all.

It is pretty common for a diner to offer a “complete” dinner, which generally “comes with” soup or salad, a main course, potato and vegetable, dessert and coffee. There is often an ample bread basket with lots of butter on the table. Maybe you’ve made your choices in advance, and you’ve budgeted for a piece of bread without the butter. Stick to it. You’ve decided on a salad with fat free dressing on the side and broiled fish with a vegetable. Stick to that. I’ve learned to cut the bread into little pieces without slathering them with butter and to eat them slowly so that I satisfy my craving for bread without overdoing it. I’ve also learned to put the salad dressing in a separate bowl to dip instead of drowning the lettuce in it.

Diner entrees are often huge – A piece of fish could be 8 to 12 ounces. That “comes with” the experience. But you don’t have to clean your plate right then: You can cut the portion in half and have the rest wrapped up: It can be a whole other meal for tomorrow. Or even if it goes against your upbringing, just leave the rest over.

What happens, though, if dessert is your Waterloo? For many of us, the “comes with” dessert is often the hardest thing to turn down. If you don’t have a sweet tooth as I do, it could be ok to order a dish of pudding or a cookie if you’ve got the willpower to take a taste and then stop. But if it’s going to scuttle your day of being on target with your calories, and it’s going to hold you back just one more day from reaching your goal, it’s really ok to turn it down.

Sometimes I say to the server, “I’ve pretended to have it, and it was really, really good!” They may be puzzled at first, but after a moment, they usually get it. I also make a concerted effort to ask if there is anything fat free or sugar free on the menu, even when I know that the answer is “No.” I keep hoping that if I continue to ask, the restaurant will offer more low-calorie choices. However, you’re not going out to dinner to please the server. And you really won’t insult them if you just say no, thank you.

Then, what “comes with” the meal is the satisfaction that you’ve handled the situation well.

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