Believe it or not we spend about half as much of our budget on food as we did 50 years ago, but cheaper isn't better. I know your brains are programmed to choose the least expensive options when dining out, but let me just remind you of the old adage, "you get what you pay for."
Making Healthy Choices
Trying to make good choices in fast food restaurants these days is like walking through a mine field. It is almost impossible to eat well on a budget especially when colleges and universities are offering fast food as part of their "meal plan." There are a number of schools making efforts to improve their food programs and I applaud them. The rest of you must demand better and/or learn to navigate your way through fast food and low budget restaurants.
- Check the web sites of establishments you intend to do business with.
- Choose meals that are not fried, and always ask for dressings and sauces on the side. If you use half the packet of dressing for instance, you will be much better off.
- Ask for something that is different from what is on the menu, i.e.. no onion, extra tomato, which forces the restaurant to make it fresh. It takes longer but, it's healthier and you know it hasn’t been sitting there for hours.
- Fast food establishments that try to do things right, i.e. smaller portions, healthy ingredients, offering salads and fruits and hearty soups instead of fries: Chipotle, Baha Fresh, Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain. If you have others in your area let everyone know in the Sharing section!
- Unless you are working out like an athlete every day you should never go for the largest size portion of anything. Do your body and your budget a favor by trimming down the portion sizes.
- If that is not an option, then eat half the large portion and take the rest home for a snack or second meal.
- Your brain takes about 20 minutes to register fullness so if you keep eating until you feel full you will overeat. Experts say eat only until you are about ¾ full and your brain will catch up with your stomach about 20 minutes later.
I know you are going to think this is really old fashioned but one day you are going to be taken to lunch by a prospective employer or invited to a fancy dinner with the parents of your significant other, and you will want to know which utensil to use and which glass to drink from. Here are a few pointers to help make the experience less intimidating.
- Utensils are placed in the order you will use them from the outside in.
- Forks are always on the left and knives and spoons on the right. So, if you order a salad for your first course, you would use the smaller fork to the left of a larger fork.
- If you have soup for an appetizer, your soup spoon would be on the extreme right.
- Dessert utensils are usually placed above the plate.
- Some restaurants come around in between courses and set you up depending on what you ordered, i.e. adding a soup spoon if you ordered soup or a steak knife if you ordered meat.
Glassware is usually filled for you but you should still know which glass is for which liquid.
- A glass with a large bowl and a wider mouth is for red wine. That’s because red wine should “breathe” or oxidize while you drink it to open up the flavor.
- White wine, which is served chilled has a smaller bowl and opening because it has a more delicate flavor and is not supposed to oxidize.
- Champagne flutes are tall with a small opening and that helps contain the bubbles.
- Always hold your white wine glass by the stem because it will warm up quickly if you handle the bowl.
- Red wine can be held either by the stem or by the bowl.
- Don’t shovel your food. Dining requires that you take a few breaths in between each mouthful and put your utensils down every once in a while.
- You also need to hold your utensils properly in between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger and not like a cave man in your fist.
- Cut your food into small bites. The amount of food on your fork or spoon should not be more than you can fit into your mouth at one time.
- Twirl pasta into a spoon or cut it.
- Lean over your plate when eating things that drip like salad.
- When eating bread, do not bite into a whole slice. Instead break off a bite size amount and pop it into your mouth. That also prevents anything that is on the bread from getting around your mouth or onto your clothes.
Dress codes have loosened up a lot over the years but they are still not as loose as many of you would like. You have been walking around in your pj’s since high school but you are going to need to clean up a bit to go to a really nice restaurant.
- If your clothes are appropriate for a ball game then they are not appropriate for a fine dining experience. Shush, I can hear the grunts and groans from here!
- You can wear jeans as long as they are nice jeans. No sneakers. Dig through your closet and find a pair of decent shoes. If you don’t own any, borrow or go buy a pair.
- Shirts with collars and jackets also work well.
- For women, if your sun dress is appropriate for the beach then take it up a notch for dinner.
- Choose classy over sexy when meeting parents or prospective employers.
- Skip the flip flops and wear a nicer shoe or sandal.