Week 19: Eat Out, But Eat Right
ED GORDON, host:
On any given day, over half of America eats at least one meal away from home. That could spell disaster if you're trying to lose weight. On this week's Fitness Challenge, NEWS AND NOTES Nutritionist Rovenia Brock dishes out some tips for eating healthy when dining out.
Here's NPR's Farai Chideya.
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FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:
There's few things I like doing more than eating out. Right now we're sitting in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Café Deluxe. It's a very nice French-style bistro, with big, open floor-to-ceiling windows. And I guess what I want to do while we're here is talk about three different things.
One is ordering, and we're going to talk about that a little bit more. Two is portion size. And three is pacing yourself while you eat.
But before we even had a chance to order, the chef of Café Deluxe came over to our table and introduced himself.
Tell us your name and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mr. MARK DECRA(ph) (Chef, Café Deluxe): Sure. My name is Mark Decra. I've been cooking professionally for about 10 years now.
CHIDEYA: We were just taking a look at the menu. And let me just give you a little bit of background. I'm on a fitness plan. I've been kind of a yo-yo dieter, up-down, up-down. Dr. Ro, who is a nutritionist, and she's helping me with it. And so today our task was go into a really yummy, delicious restaurant full of good things like yours and to decide how to make good choices on the menu. Have you had any customers who say, well, I want more healthy choices? Because it seems like you have a mix of different types of foods. How do your customers tell you what they want?
Mr. DECRA: We tend to get a lot of special orders, lots of special requests, things cooked certain ways. We try to accommodate everything that they possibly can.
CHIDEYA: So since this is kind of a French-style bistro, do you ever go, mon dieu! The crazy customers, I could kill them.
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Mr. DECRA: Of course. My advice to most people on diets is, if you're really on a diet that's very strict and you're really watching what you're eating, you should be very proactive in going out and asking what is in things. Because you know, menus can be very limited for space. We're not always able to really list every single ingredient, which, for dieters, that's important.
CHIDEYA: Do you have any other advice, I guess, about the food that you cook or things that people can ask for without being unreasonable? Because sometimes it's like, I'd like a grilled cheese sandwich without it being fried and without the cheese. You know, you can't do that.
Mr. DECRA: The major thing for dieters, always know what you want so that you can ask and clarify. Number two is always going to be looking for the items that you know for the most part are going to be prepared in a healthy way. Those being grilled foods, you know, obviously pastas and anything sautéed there's always going to be that aspect of oil or fat or something used to keep it from sticking to the pan. So avoidance of starches and things like that will always create a healthier diet when eating out.
CHIDEYA: We thank Chef Mark for giving us the skinny on the fats in his cooking. Then came the tough part: ordering something both delicious and healthy.
I wanted to order the sea bass but with no (unintelligible) sauce.
Dr. ROVENIA BROCK (Nutritionist; Author): I will go with the grilled tilapia. And I'll have the small salad of the...
CHIDEYA: The first one...
Dr. BROCK: Goat cheese, baby greens, pine nuts and tomatoes.
CHIDEYA: And you know what, since she's starting out with a salad, I'll start out with the mixed greens...
Unidentified Woman #1: The mixed green salad.
CHIDEYA: Dr. Ro keeps telling me that in order to lose weight, it helps to focus on the conversation, not just the food. So we talked about Dr. Ro's new line of fitness wear, Ro Gear, and also about how weight loss isn't just eating and exercising. It's also about taking care of yourself emotionally. And I'm doing my best.
Today, I've dropped from a size 22 to a size 16. With all of the things we had to talk about, it seemed like just seconds before our food arrived.
Dr. BROCK: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: That looks wonderful. Thank you. Let's talk a little bit about pacing. So you order your food, and pacing is usually easier when you're eating with someone. But if you're eating alone, how do you stop yourself from just shoveling it in?
Dr. BROCK: You want to make sure you chew every bite. And you want to take smaller bites and chew with intent. The other thing is they have water because it helps to fill you up.
CHIDEYA: I have the sea bass. Thank you.
Dr. BROCK: That looks wonderful.
CHIDEYA: It does look good.
Dr. BROCK: Yeah, you can put it right there. Now this is a huge sandwich. But now one good trick to do with a sandwich like this is to make it an open face sandwich, so you don't have all the bread.
CHIDEYA: You take off one layer.
Dr. BROCK: Mm-hmm. You take off one layer. And the one thing about American sandwiches is that they're huge.
Dr. BROCK: People in other parts of the world would have - like half of this would be a sandwich.
CHIDEYA: Taste it.
Dr. BROCK: Wonderful.
CHIDEYA: Isn't that great?
Dr. BROCK: It is.
CHIDEYA: What I'm trying to do, and what you have managed to do, is to just change your life and stay changed. I have a weight range that I want to be in. I want to be in a place where I feel as if being fat is not part of my identity, because I've definitely taken on a fat identity.
And what I mean by that is that you can blame a lot of things on being fat. Oh, I'm not dating because I'm fat. Or, you know, I'm not clothes shopping because I'm fat. I'm not this. I'm not that. And part of it has to do with like this identity that I've taken on that even supersedes the weight.
And so I've got to - cause parts of that identity are very comfortable.
Dr. BROCK: Yeah. Because you don't have to do anything. You can just rest on that. Oh, I'm not doing this. I'm not going out. I'm not putting the energy out because of this. But it really isn't because of this. Because this exists because of something else and maybe many something elses.
And that's where the whole experience of loving yourself from the inside out comes in. It is a total process - it is a total process of total wellness. And the food, the fitness are two parts of it. But your story is such an inspiration for so many of us.
CHIDEYA: I'm hoping so.
Dr. BROCK: So you're doing a great service.
CHIDEYA: So thanks again. We'll be talking soon.
Dr. BROCK: Always a pleasure.
GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya with NEWS AND NOTES Nutritionist Rovenia Brock, author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Living Healthy.
On the next Fitness Challenge, an exercise anyone can do: walking. It's easy and cheap, but where you live can make a difference in how much your walk. So lace up your shoes and hit the streets with Farai in New York and Los Angeles.
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Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) ...Walking in L.A. Nobody walks in L.A. I don't know (unintelligible) baby...
GORDON: That's our program for today. Thanks for joining us. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. And if you'd like to give us a comment, call 202-408-3330. NEWS AND NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Radio Consortium.