Healthy Dining Out: The 50% Solution

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I used to eat really fast when I felt hungry.

I think it was because if I hadn’t eaten much all day, I needed to eat as quickly as I could to make the “hunger” feeling go away. {Even though we all know it takes the brain at least twenty minutes to determine that the stomach is full.} Furthermore, if I had something “bad” in the house, I’d try to finish off the package as quickly as possible, which could be a couple of hours or a couple of days. This would mean it would be out of the house and I wouldn’t be tempted to eat that bad food later. What kind of thinking was that?

I’ve been changing this relationship with food.

You may know by now that I’m a Francophile. I do love that in French and Italian cultures that food is supposed to be about pleasure. It’s about the quality of food, not the quantity that matters. Furthermore, these two countries have some of the healthiest lifestyles in the world and don’t seem to have the obesity problems that we do in the U.S.

We can still enjoy great food – just in smaller quantities.

Nothing I eat now is off limits. It takes away the overwhelming desire to want to eat something just because I “can’t”. I let myself eat anything now. It’s maybe not always the healthiest food, but I don’t eat a lot of it. It’s just enough to satisfy the taste that I {sometimes think} desire. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it’s been a huge piece to the weight-loss and healthiness puzzle for me. When I came across this article this morning, it reinforced my beliefs on this subject.

Dining out is one of those things that’s often off limits on many diets. However, now that I don’t limit myself to eating at home, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. We dine out at least twice per week. To me, each time I go out, it’s “practice” for the next time. What is on the menu that is healthy, but will satisfy me? Still, menu items that seem healthy can be served in extra large portion sizes or with hidden ingredients such as too much oil, butter or even lard slathered over the top.

Healthy Dining Out Tip:

I got this tip from the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. My friend Stacey, who shares a love of finding good quality restaurants, gave me what I believe was Mireille Guiliano’s second book: French Women for All Seasons. While this book focuses on how to eat seasonally to eat the best quality ingredients, one tip that I picked up and have put to use that she discusses is:

The 50% Solution

Simply put, the purpose of the “50% Solution” is to force you to be more mindful of your portion size. And because we all know that restaurant portion sizes can be astronomical, it really does come in handy when dining out and can keep us from stuffing ourselves silly. This is where I like to practice it most.

Here’s how it works:

When you are dining out, Guiliano says to ask yourself if you can live with half the amount being offered. When you first try this, you might think, “No way! I’m starving!” But try to resist those thoughts and eat only half of the portion; and eat it slowly. After you have eaten half the portion, Guiliano says to stop and ask yourself if you are content and if continuing would be a matter of pleasure or routine.

Quite often, half of the portion is enough. If you need to continue, so be it. But you just might be surprised. If you decide to keep going, you need to repeat the process. Eat half of the half, then reevaluate. In theory, if you continue repeating this process, you will never eat the entire thing. You could even add a five-minute waiting period or drink a glass of water between each “half”. Think of it as “half-time”. When you are paying this much attention to it, deliberately stopping and reflecting before continuing, it makes all the difference in the world.

Consider this, Guiliano says, “In terms of taste, contentment can be found in the first few bites.” I don’t remember where, but I once heard that people only really taste (or pay attention to) the first three and last three bites of anything they’re eating. The stomach is what says,”that’s enough”, but it’s oftentimes too late.

When we first tried the 50% Solution, we ordered a Side Special at the Bloomington ChopHouse: the Pavé Potato. This was a six-inch square portion of layered potatoes about two or three inches high with asiago and parmigiano reggiano. In fact, it was so huge that we took half of the portion and then split that into two halves, one for each of us. They were creamy, cheesy and oh-so-decadent. I savored each bite slowly. I hate half of my half and then half of that half. {Uh, does that make sense?} I pushed the rest away. I am pretty sure that the server was confused when he took away our huge plate of leftover potatoes. He probably thought we didn’t like them. But I loved them! It’s probably been a year since and I haven’t forgotten them!

This past week, I ordered some fish tacos at restaurant. (Impression to come soon!) Most people would think two tacos wouldn’t be enough to fill anyone up. But I only ate one (and the side salad):

Mahi Mahi tacos

We had some sautéed mushrooms on grilled bread as an appetizer, so I didn’t need much more. What’s more, is that the second taco tasted excellent for lunch the next day without being re-heated!

If you want more fun tips like this, please check out Guiliano’s books and website.

I know I’ve already given you one challenge for this weekend, but I’d like to give you another: Give the 50% Solution a try this weekend when you are out. Then report back how it worked for you!

Cheers~
Carrie

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