Eating Out

Healthy Eating Out
Make some healthy choices when eating out – enjoy your meal without wrecking your weight-loss!

Eating out should be a pleasurable experience – definitely something to look forward to! However, eating out doesn’t need to ruin your weight loss targets. Here are a few strategies that will help you keep to your diet.

Before You Go Out

Don’t starve yourself before you go out – this is a recipe for disaster, as you’ll end up overeating. If necessary, have a healthy snack before you go and drink some water to ensure that you’re well hydrated.

Think about your weight-loss goals before you go out – this will help you to stay in control. Visualise how you’ll look and feel when you achieve your weight-loss goals.

Restaurant Eating

If you are going to a restaurant try to get a look at the menu before you go out – it’s easier to make healthy choices in the comfort of your own home. Ask the waiter for extra vegetables or salad instead of the pasta or potatoes. Chances are they will only be too happy to oblige. Good options include:

  • Tandoori mixed grill with salad & side vegetables (avoid rice and bread)
  • Kebabs with plenty of veg – no pitta bread
  • Meat with salad and vegetables (avoid potatoes)
  • Omelette (with filling of your choice)

Steer clear of pasta or rice based meals and focus on meat and vegetables. Avoid bread – particularly during your starter. Needless to say, forgo dessert if you’re serious about achieving your weight loss goals – sugar laden puddings are a disaster if you are watching your weight. Go for a cheese board instead, and go easy on the crackers.

Avoid fruit juices and fizzy drinks – water is the best option. If you’re drinking alcohol, go for a couple of glasses of red wine.

Eat mindfully when you’re eating out – eat slowly, chew your food, and stop eating when you are pleasantly full. Just because you’ve paid for the food doesn’t mean you have to finish absolutely everything. Most restaurants will be happy to wrap surplus food for you to take away.

Eating Out at Social Events

Make sure you aren’t too hungry before you go. If you’re going to be waiting a long time before you eat, take some fruit or mixed nuts as well as a bottle of water. Avoid bread and breaded products such as chicken nuggets. Fill up on fresh salad and steer away from potato salad and pasta salads.

Avoid dessert – if necessary take a small piece to be polite and eat it very slowly. Keep half of it on your plate as a way of deflecting people from offering you more. Plan how many alcoholic drinks you will have and stick to it. Drink water in between every alcoholic drink – you’ll feel better the next day when everyone else is suffering!

Watch Your Alcohol

You don’t need to drink loads to have a good time. Alcohol contributes to weight gain, so you should moderate your alcohol intake. Set yourself limits before you go out – and stick to these limits!

Hopefully these guidelines will help you to enjoy eating out without wrecking your weight loss goals. Enjoy your food, take your time eating, and focus on the foods that you can have rather than the ones you can’t – dishes with meat, fish, vegetables, salad & cheese. Bon Appétit!

Need more help? Check out our weight loss services!

Are You Surrounded by Foods That Make You Fat?

FScientists think that an environment which encourages you to eat unhealthy food is a major reason for the increase in obesity. There’s even a name for the phenomenon: The Obesogenic Environment. We are surrounded by unhealthy food choices. Think how easy it is to get hold of junk food – you’re never more than a few paces away from a Mars bar, a bottle of Coke or a packet of sweets – the very “danger” foods that cause us to put on weight. Junk food is sold to us in every imaginable setting: at work, in leisure centres, on every high street, in vending machines, petrol stations and newsagents. When our environment promotes unhealthy food, is it any wonder that we are putting on weight? It’s not all doom and gloom – there are a number of ways that you can change your environment so that it works for you, rather than against you. The following tips should help.

Portion Size

Plate sizes have been getting bigger, and most of us are culturally programmed to finish what’s on the plate – a recipe for overeating! Research shows that when you put larger portions in front of people, people eat more – and don’t even realise they’re doing it. My favourite experiment involved a never ending soup bowl (fresh soup was piped in from below) which caused people to eat way more soup. Other experiments involved giving people popcorn in different size containers: People ate 45 percent more popcorn from extra-large containers compared with large ones. In light of this research, it’s worrying to think that the average size of dinner plates has increased in the last few decades. The solution? Buy smaller plates! I’m not joking, simply using smaller plates will help you to control your portion size. Instead of having to think about every mouthful, you make one simple change to your plate size and you will be less inclined to overeat. If you clear your plate and you are really still hungry, you can always go back for more – but you’ll have to consciously decide to get more, rather than mindlessly ploughing your way through a heap of food on an extra large dinner plate. Research also shows that people tend to drink more from short fat glasses compared with tall thin ones – so if you do drink fizzy drinks (which I DO NOT recommend), using tall thin glasses will help limit your consumption.

Make the Healthy Food Choice Easy

ChocolatesDon’t make the mistake of surrounding yourself with junk food – you’ll be far more likely to succumb to temptation. Shopping is a key time when you really need to think about controlling your environment. If you don’t buy crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks, you’ll be less likely to consume them. Making one good decision when you’re shopping will save you from having to constantly resist temptation. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t shop when you are hungry – you’ll be more likely to buy junk. Get yourself fired up and positive when you shop for food and stick to healthy options. This will pay dividends when your resolve falters later on – when you crave junk food, there won’t be any in the cupboard.

Pre-Commit to Eat Healthy

Stock your house with plenty of healthy foodstuffs like fruit, vegetables, wholegrain products, nuts and seeds. Make sure these foods are easily available. Commit in advance to eating well:

  • Put 5-10 pieces of fruit in a bowl in the morning, and make sure you eat them by evening
  • Put fruit and nuts into a lunchbox for a snack during work-time
  • Leave a jug or bottle of flavoured water on your desk – you’ll be less likely to go for unhealthy fizzy drinks
  • Leave a well stocked fruit bowl where the family can easily get to it – you’ll be more likely to snack on fruit

The TV Environment

Don’t have a TV in the room where you eat, or make sure that you religiously turn off the TV whilst eating. Research shows that watching TV whilst eating has been linked to overeating and obesity. Having a TV in your bedroom is also a bad idea. It will affect your sleep patterns, and poor sleep has been linked to obesity. Whatever you do, don’t allow your kids to have a TV in their room – this encourages passive habits and has been linked to obesity.

Pushing Junk Food

Our commercial world pushes junk food constantly (because it is so profitable). You can’t change this bit of your environment, but you can at least be prepared for it! Don’t believe the advertising slogans concocted by junk food manufacturers, and be ready when junk food is pushed at you. I recently bought a cup of coffee at a petrol station, and the shop assistant almost fell over when I refused the free muffin: “but it’s free!”. You don’t need the muffin. Don’t take it. Be prepared when shop assistants offer a free chocolate or a special offer on junk food – just say no. I recently stood in a massive queue at WHSmith in Heathrow Airport, trying to buy a bottle of water. The queue was so long because every time someone made a purchase, the shop assistant offered them three large chocolate bars (Toblerone) for the price of two. It was working – many people were buying chocolate that they had no intention of purchasing when they walked in the shop. Decide what you want to buy, and stick to it – ignore any offers, and beware of this marketing tactic.

Get Some Toys!

Teenage girl on a bicycleFill your house with active toys:

  • Footballs, tennis balls and frisbees are not just for kids
  • If you have room, get an outside table tennis set or basketball hoop
  • Get a table football and have tournaments with family & friends

If you have easy access to active toys, you’ll be more likely to get out and be active.

Move More

Park a bit further away from your destination than usual, and walk the rest of the way. Buy a bike and use it to run errands, commute, or just to go for a leisurely bike ride. Store it somewhere prominent, so that it will act as a reminder to you.

Control Your Leisure Environment

Instead of always meeting friends in a pub or restaurant, try tag rugby, 5-a-side football or go for a swim and a sauna together. When you take the kids out for a treat, decide in advance against taking them to McDonalds – take them for a walk or a swim instead. You don’t need junk food to bond with the kids, and if you don’t expose yourselves to fast food restaurants, you’ll eat less junk food. Get some activity and have some healthy snacks afterwards. If you do get some active leisure, watch out – most leisure centres boost their profits by vending junk food. Don’t undo all your good work by guzzling chocolate. Plan in advance how and where you can get a healthy meal after your activity session.


We can’t control all aspects of our obesogenic environment, but there are many ways that we can get our environment working for us:

  • Control portion size – use smaller plates & taller glasses
  • Make a shopping list and stick to it – don’t buy junk food
  • Add 5 – 10 pieces of fruit to a bowl every day and make sure you eat them
  • Keep a bottle of water available – you’ll be less likely to consume unhealthy drinks
  • Stock up on active toys – for adults & kids!
  • Get active in your leisure time – meet your mates in the gym rather than the pub
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV
  • Keep the TV out of bedrooms
  • Be prepared when junk food is pushed at you
  • Move more – walk and cycle when you can

You could also cause a fuss where you see unhealthy choices being promoted – why not try to change things for the better? I worked with secondary schools in our local County to have fizzy drinks vending removed and replaced with bottled water vending. Fizzy drink consumption plummeted overnight in the schools that made the change, simply because access was restricted. So get out there and make your environment more healthy!

Photo 1 by: Svadilfari licensed under Creative Commons Photo 2 by: emdot licensed under Creative Commons Photo 3 by: catface3 licensed under Creative Commons

Don’t Eat Sugar

Sweet enough
Two important rules for weight loss. Rule 1: Don’t eat sugar. Rule 2: Don’t forget rule number one!

The modern diet, full of sugar, refined carbohydrates and other nutritionally poor foods, causes us to gain weight. One of the biggest culprits for weight gain is sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate that is easily absorbed by your body – and refined sugar is not a natural part of the human diet.

Human beings have been around for 200,000 years, but sugar and other refined carbohydrates have only recently become part of our diet. Your body is not “designed” to handle repeated doses of easily absorbed carbohydrates – and sugar in all it’s forms is a particular problem.

Give up sugar. It’s the single best thing you can do to lose weight quickly and sustainably. ELIMINATE sugar from your diet – don’t eat chocolate bars, sweets or cakes. Be careful of foods labelled “low fat” – these are usually full of sugar. Be careful of breakfast cereals – most of these have added sugar. Stop adding sugar to tea and coffee, and don’t drink sweetened drinks.

Sugar & Health

Eating sugar causes an increase in the hormone insulin. Insulin stops your body from using fat as fuel, and causes your body to convert sugar into fat. Eating sugar causes you to get fatter, and increases your risk for a range of other health problems. If you keep eating a high sugar diet, you can’t burn off your fat stores – your body is burning sugar rather than fat.

Stop eating sugar – you’ll feel better, lose weight and be healthier!

Giving Up Sugar

Have a “cover story” ready to help you refuse food that contains sugar (cakes, biscuits, etc). Tell people you are on a special diet – and refuse sugary snacks. Sugar takes different forms and may be listed as the following ingredients:

  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Sugar

If you see these on the list of ingredients, leave the product on the shelf.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Be Prepared!

When you stop eating sugar you might experience some initial discomfort, and possibly even reduced energy levels. This is normal and it will pass. Your body is so used to getting quick “sugar-hits”, that it can’t mobilise your fat stores and use them as fuel. Not everyone experiences this, but if you do, be strong. Your body will make the necessary adaptations, and before you know it you will switch into a “fat-burning” mode.

You may find yourself craving sugary foods. Remember that your new dietary habits are not the problem – your old “unnatural” habits are the problem. You don’t “need” sugar – this is just a common myth.

When you remove sugar from your diet, you are usually correcting years of abuse. You’re trying to turn your body into a fat-burning engine – and you’ll need time to get through this transition. Give yourself time, be strong, and look forward to more energy, reduced weight and better health.

Need more help? Check out our weight loss services!

No Such Thing as a Bad Food? Think Again!

Good Food!

Recent research carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health calls into question the often cited weight-loss advice to “Eat Less, Exercise More” – advice which is over-simplistic. It also calls into question the food industry mantra that “there is no such thing as a bad food”.

The Harvard School of Public Health have an excellent website, carry out excellent research, and are unafraid to provide clear and unbiased advice.

In a series of three separate studies looking at diet and other lifestyle factors, researchers found that long-term weight gain was closely linked to:

  • Intake of specific foods and drinks
  • Physical activity
  • TV-watching
  • Sleep duration

In particular, changes in diet had the biggest effect on weight gain. The research appears in the June 23, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Preventing Obesity

The average person puts on excess weight very gradually – about 0.5 kg (1 lb) per year. Half a kilogram of excess weight isn’t much – but over the course of a few decades you can easily pile on 10 kg, ending up overweight or obese. The researchers at Harvard looked at data collected over a 20 year period, and the results paint an interesting picture of how weight gain creeps up on us. It also highlights which foods and lifestyle factors are most closely related to weight gain.

“An average adult gains about one pound per year. Because the weight gain is so gradual and occurs over many years, it has been difficult for scientists and for individuals themselves to understand the specific factors that may be responsible,”

said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor and one of the authors of the research.

Name and Shame!

The research points to several foods as being most closely associated with weight gain:

  • Potato chips/crisps (for each one increased daily serving, +1.69 lb more weight gain every 4 years)
  • Other potatoes (1.28 lb)
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb)
  • Unprocessed meats (0.95 lb)
  • Processed meats (0.93 lb)

Good Foods!

Several foods were associated with less weight gain when their consumption was increased, including vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb) and yogurt (−0.82 lb).

The bottom line? Eating more of certain foods can actually help prevent weight gain. Avoiding other key “bad” foods can also help avoid weight gain. The take home message:

  • Eat more minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt)
  • Avoid highly processed foods (e.g. white breads, bagels, processed meats, cakes)
  • Avoid sugar
  • Avoid sugary drinks & sweets
  • Eat fewer potatoes and refined grains (white rice, breakfast cereals low in fiber, other refined carbohydrates)

If you’re overweight, we recommend avoiding sugar and refined grains – including bread, pasta & white rice.

Why should the type of food we eat influence long-term weight gain? Surely it’s all about how many calories we take in (by eating food) balanced against calories we burn (by being active)?

Good Foods vs Bad Foods

It turns out that not all calories are created equal. Different foods have different effects on hunger, insulin levels, and feelings of fullness (satiety) – so eating more of certain foods may help us to eat more healthily.

Nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are unprocessed – it takes time to chew them and digest them. If you eat more of these foods, you feel full for longer – so overall, you’ll consume fewer calories over the course of a day.

By way of contrast, when you eat sweets, the calories are easily absorbed and you will not feel full for long – you’ll soon be ready for more empty calories in a vicious cycle of over-consumption.

According to Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard and senior author of the paper: “The idea that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is a myth that needs to be debunked.”

The following video shows Dr Mozaffarian talking about the research:

The research also found that TV watching and sleep habits were linked to long-term weight gain:

  • More TV watching was linked to weight gain
  • Sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours per night was linked to weight gain

Overall, the weight-changes associated with any one lifestyle change were fairly small. However, together they added up – especially for diet. Small lifestyle changes can together make a big difference – for bad or good.

It is easy to gain weight unintentionally – excess weight creeps up on us gradually over a number of years. However, making simple lifestyle changes has the potential to help prevent and treat obesity.

Lose Weight: Take Control of Your Environment!

Weight loss food
Supermarkets often do their best to sell you junk food – you need to be strong when shopping – remind yourself of your weight loss goals before going in the shop

When you are trying to lose weight, managing your diet is really important. Unfortunately, we’re usually surrounded by unhealthy foods – and this makes it more difficult for us to make healthy choices. We tend to snack on foods that we have access to – so if biscuits are in the cupboard, you’re more likely to eat them!

If we surround ourselves with junk food, is it any wonder that we eat more of it? If our environment is full of temptation, we’re much more likely to give in to cravings and fail to achieve our weight-loss goals.

Controlling Your Food Environment

You need to learn to take control of your food environment so that healthy choices are easy to make, and unhealthy options are more difficult. It’s usually easier to change your environment than to change your mind. Simple guidelines to control your food environment include:

  • Use smaller plates – you’ll tend to eat smaller portions
  • Don’t keep biscuits, sweets or crisps in the house!
  • Put salad & vegetables on the table – you’ll eat more of these healthy foods
  • Keep your fruit bowl highly visible – on your desk or in the car
  • Restrict your access to junk food – if you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it!
  • Make water available – take a bottle of water with you to work, leave a jug on the table
  • Strictly limit the amount of sweets and crisps you buy for the kids
  • Don’t buy cakes and biscuits when you visit friends – avoid temptation
  • Don’t keep gallons of alcohol in the house – you’ll be more likely to slip into the habit of mid-week drinking!

Things You Can’t Control

There are many situations where you can’t control your food environment – and in these situations you need to be strong! If you’re going somewhere where you know you’ll be offered unhealthy food, be prepared.

In particular, stay focused on your weight loss goals when you’re food shopping or eating out. Keep a reminder of your weight loss goal with you – and look at it when you feel tempted!

Need help managing your weight? We can help! Give us a call on 087 930 7575 – we love to talk and are happy to give free advice!

What Causes Obesity?

The following video, made by Dr Robert Lustig of the University of California, explains why so many of us are overweight and obese.

Most weight loss diets basically involve getting people to eat less and be more active – and the video explains why this approach doesn’t work. Such diets involve starvation – and eventually, you slip up and put the weight back on. To achieve lasting weight loss, you need to move away from an industrialised modern diet towards food that your body is designed to cope with. Watch Dr Lustig and find out we gain weight!

If you’d like help with weight loss, contact us or call on 087 930 7575.