Going out to eat can be a minefield of decisions, particularly when you’re working to lose weight and make healthier choices with your eating habits. Naturally when you order out you want to make the most of your meals and choose something off the menu which satisfies your cravings. While it’s important to note that you can eat just about anything in moderation and still continue to lose weight, there are certain menu items which may make this much more difficult, overloading your body with calories and leaving you feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and with worsened cravings at the end of the day. You should never feel as though any foods are “off limits” to you, even when working to lose weight, but dietitians agree that there is one dinner entree which as a whole should be ordered infrequently for you to feel your best.
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Carbs are not the enemy and that statement stands true, but as a general rule, ordering pasta dishes from any given restaurant may not be the best choice for achieving your weight loss goals simply by how it’s likely prepared. Often made of white flour and housing a variety of calorie dense ingredients, while delicious, pasta can easily rack up several hundred calories and almost always contain more than one serving per bowl.
“Pasta dishes contain gluten, which is highly inflammatory for most people and can contribute to obesity. Pasta dishes at restaurants also tend to be coated in heavy sauces that contain more gluten, dairy, or refined sugar, which adds to the inflammation that the dish already causes,” warns nutritionist Heather Hanks.
Although one meal isn’t going to ruin your progress and if you order pasta you realistically won’t gain weight overnight, you may find that it’s easier to stick to your healthy habits if you continue making nutritious choices while eating out. Additionally, even the most innocuous menu items at restaurants can be packed with excess calories, so a typically calorically dense meal such as pasta is apt to contain even more than usual.
“There are always hidden calories and inflammatory ingredients around [at restaurants], such as refined sugar in sauces and gluten and dairy in seemingly healthy dishes,” warns Hanks.
Eating out should be something to look forward to and you want to be able to enjoy the meals you crave, but you may be better served saving the denser, more calorically rich meals to be cooked at home so you have control over exactly what’s going into the recipe instead of leaving your diet at the mercy of the chef.
“Opt for a grilled chicken salad with olive oil and vinegar as your dressing and save the heavy comfort meals for when you can prepare them at home using healthier ingredients. Some restaurants are offering zucchini noodles in place of regular noodles, and this is another good way to save calories when ordering a pasta dish,” Hanks suggests.
Depriving your body of the foods you love is a surefire way for your diet to fail, so it’s important to continue to eat your favorite foods in moderation. However, when it comes to ordering at a restaurant your body will ultimately be better served if you opt for a protein and vegetable based meal rather than a heavy pasta dish. This will prevent you from consuming an excess of calories for the day so that you can leave the restaurant feeling confident in your decision rather than being stuffed and uncomfortable.
A diet for healthy weight loss can still include pasta at the end of the day, but making it at home rather than ordering off a menu will save your calories and stress, so that you can be sure you made a decision which will support your goals, rather than work against them.