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A dash of common sense comes in handy when dining out

Oct. 5, 2012
 
The classic diet menu at many restaurants consisted of an appetizing meal like this: cotttage cheese and pineapple. Fortunately, many restaurants have moved beyond this tantalizing feast and are more creative.
The classic diet menu at many restaurants consisted of an appetizing meal like this: cotttage cheese and pineapple. Fortunately, many restaurants have moved beyond this tantalizing feast and are more creative. / Staff illustration
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Mike Beck

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I remember what restaurants used to call the Diet Plate: a scoop or two of cottage cheese on a lettuce leaf. Maybe some fruit cocktail or a slice of pineapple.

Now thatís living!

So when I started my journey early this year to improve my health, the diet plate was my picture of eating out without packing on the pounds. Makes you want to eat at home.

But I like to eat out. Who doesnít? Itís fun to get waited on. Itís nice to have choices. And I like to experiment with different kinds of food.

Eating out is entertainment, whether itís an oyster bar in Florida or a booth at the Wausau Mine Co.

Iím usually the first to suggest the Blue Willow after church. What did we do for my wifeís 50th birthday last month? We had dinner out.

Going out to eat holds the prospect of great food and lots of it.

Good restaurants ó the ones that stay around ó want you to leave satisfied. That likely means calories, carbs and fat.

Iím told that eating out and eating well donít have to be mutually exclusive, and some restaurants make an effort to offer healthy choices. For example, during a recent lunch at 2510, I noticed they have a 500 (calorie) Club.

But like the Diet Plate, Iím leery about what Iím going to get ó or not get ó from a low-cal menu.

So I reconcile my passion for eating out with a few basic strategies.

ē Just because I donít get the cottage cheese doesnít mean I have to get the 32-ounce porterhouse. A common sense approach to portions seems to work.

ē I donít blindly trust salads ó or salad dressings ó as low-calorie options.

ē Wraps can be very sloppy and can stain your dress shirt. (Um, sorry, wrong topic.)

ē I figure I can have fast food about once a year, maybe twice in a leap year.

ē It wonít kill me to get a side of fruit instead of a side of fries, but it annoys me when I canít substitute without extra expense.

ē When my kids get some amazing burger with a side of onion rings and a shake, I have to remind myself that over the years, I have consumed more than my share, and now itís their turn.

ē Donít eat everything on your plate. (Iím still working on this one.)

ē Skip the cottage cheese.

Michael Beck is the general manager/executive editor of the Wausau Daily Herald and the Stevens Point Journal. He can be reached at mbeck@gannett.com.

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