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Healthy Tip

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Avoid overdoing it at your favorite restaurants!

Quality is the defining factor in a nourishing diet: whole foods, mostly from plant sources, foster good health. But quantity matters, too—a lot. You might think you’re in the clear if you avoid fast food places and their supersized meals, but your favorite restaurants may be guilty of portion distortion, too. Oversized servings dominate in restaurants around the world, according to research, and they’re a factor in the obesity epidemic. In a U.S.-based study, a meal at American, Italian, and Chinese restaurants averaged nearly 1,500 calories—that’s nearly a day’s worth of calories for many women and about half a day’s worth for many men. Before you blame willpower, consider that our bodies evolved to cope more with famine than with feast. Seeing and smelling food triggers a series of involuntary physiological changes that encourage us to eat! Rather than expecting yourself to have superhuman powers of resistance, try these strategies: Be your own personal chef. Cook your own meals, with nutritious ingredients, and make restaurant outings the exception, not the rule. Keep your head at restaurants. When you do go out, set your sights on appetizers, salads, soups, or small plates, rather than entrées. If you do order an entrée and it’s enormous, ask for a to-go container for half of it before you begin eating. Slow down and savor. Eating mindfully may help you enjoy your food more—and avoid overeating. Pause and take a deep breath before you begin, and notice the colors and smells of whatever’s on your plate. Chew each bite slowly, paying attention to taste and texture. When you attend to each bite, you may find you don’t need as many of them!