By: David Zinczenko, Men's Health Magazine
If being an anonymous blip on a giant corporation’s assembly line makes you feel like a character in some bleak sci-fi movie, we’ve got good news. There are plenty of ways to fight back—to enjoy all the convenience of modern restaurants and all the foods you still like to eat without paying extra money every 6 months for a new pair of pants.
You see, all major restaurant chains—from the fast-food purveyors to the sandwich shops and coffee bars to the sit-down dinner joints with their vaguely Italian/Mexican/Chinese/whatever themes—operate with the same set of secrets, secrets they don’t want their customers to know. And if you know these secrets, well, guess what? The power to eat what you want and still stay slim is in your hands. Lucky you!
This list of sneaky secrets, straight from the book Eat This, Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide will help you start taking back control! And, even better, we’ve created an Eat This, Not That! iPhone app—it’s like having your own personal nutritionist at your fingertips!
Secret #1: Don’t get “supersized” Sure, it feels like you’re getting a bargain because you’re getting proportionately more food for proportionately less money. But a “value meal” is only a value for two sets of people: the corporations that make the food and the corporations that make liposuction machines and heart stents. Because food is so inexpensive for manufacturers to produce on a large scale, your average fast-food emporium makes a hefty profit whenever you supersize your meal—even though you’re getting an average of 73 percent more calories for only 17 percent more money. But you’re not actually buying more food. You’re buying more calories. And that’s not something you want more of.
Secret #2: Remember, the waiter is a salespersonA 2005 study published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services found that you’re more likely to order a side dish when the server verbally prompts you. (“Do you want fries with that?”) Restaurants know this, and now you know it, too. When the waiter makes a suggestion, remember his job is not to make you happy. His job is to extract money from your wallet and insert fat in its place.
Secret #3: Don’t get too excitedYou eat out all the time. A 2008 study in the International Food Research Journal found that people are less likely to make healthy restaurant choices when they feel that they’re dining out for a “special occasion.” And as we said, dining out used to be special. But before you head out to your next meal, really take stock of how many times you’ve eaten out this week. If you’re eating every meal at home and dining out truly is a once-a-week splurge, then don’t worry about it so much. But if you’re like most of us, eating out is probably more like a once-a-day splurge. And if that’s the case, remember, there’s nothing special here. Eat smart today because you’ll have to do it again tomorrow.
Bonus tip: Download our free Eat This, Not That! guide to shopping once and eating for a week—and save calories, time, and money!
Secret #4: Start smallHere’s the good news: No one is going to stop you from ordering seconds. So be like any good businessperson, and start small. Here’s exactly how expensive it really is whenever you go for the “bargain”:
7-Eleven: Gulp to Double Gulp Coca-Cola Classic: 37 cents extra buys 450 more calories.
Cinnabon: Minibon to Classic Cinnabon: 48 more cents buys 370 more calories.
Movie theater: Small to medium unbuttered popcorn: 71 additional cents buys you 500 more calories.
Convenience store: Regular to “The Big One” Snickers: 33 more cents packs on 230 more calories.
McDonald’s: Quarter Pounder with Cheese to Medium Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal: An additional $1.41 gets you 660 more calories.
Subway: 6-inch to 12-inch Tuna Sub: $1.53 more buys 420 more calories.
Wendy’s: Classic Double with Cheese to Classic Double with Cheese Old Fashioned Combo Meal: $1.57 extra buys you 600 more calories.
Baskin Robbins: Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Kids’ Scoop, to Double Scoop: For another $1.62, you’ve added 390 calories.
The bottom line on all this? For just a hair more than 8 bucks, you’ve bought yourself an additional 3,620 calories. If you ate each of these once a week, and you were to switch to the smaller size each time—again, still all your favorite foods, just in a more reasonable size—you’d save about $417 a year. It’s not going to buy you a new car, but it could put you on a plane to the Bahamas. But far more important than that is what it will mean to your waistline, because in saving that $417, you’ll also save 188,240 calories in a year—enough to shave a whopping 54 pounds of flab off your body! (Hey, take the 400 bucks and buy some new pants!)