According to registered dietitian Casey McCoy of Country Doctor Community Health Centers, an average ideal serving a 1:1:2 ratio of carbs, protein, and vegetable side dishes respectively. For example, your plate should consist of 50% veggies and greens, and the rest should be split evenly between meat and a starch, such as grains, pasta, bread, potatoes, or any other high-carb accompaniment.
The 1:1:2 ration can easily be maintained when ordering in a group, too. For instance, you can order one pasta dish, one meat entree, and a big salad, or vegetarian main dish to share.
Speaking of sharing, ordering family style is a good way to maintain balance, and a greater variety of food groups. To those of you who may not know, family-style means ordering a few different dishes, laying them all out in a buffet like manner, and each member of the group can have a bit of everything of their choosing.
That way, you’re not tied to finishing a heavy pasta dish, or a meat-heavy entree all by yourself. In the US takeout, portions tend to be generous; they’re typically large enough for one and a half to two servings.
“Eating family-style gives you the choice to balance your plate with a good ratio of protein, carbs, and veggies, and allows you to choose your portion sizes,” McCoy explained. Not only will it save you calories, but ordering family style you’re will also allow you to enjoy a more balanced meal while being kinder to your wallet.
Don’t be shy, ask the restaurant workers if it’s possible to modify your order. Find out if you can swap the fried chicken for grilled chicken or request to have more vegetables than noodles in your pasta. To meet the 1:2 ratio, ask to have extra lettuce, tomatoes, and other fresh toppings on your meaty sandwich, and if possible, swap the white bread for whole grain, since higher fiber content will keep you fuller for longer and regulate your blood sugar better.
There are countless ways to lower the calorie load and tweak the nutritional value of a dish! More often than not, the restaurants will fulfill a special request, sometimes for little to no extra cost.
Another way to cut costs and add satiation is simply adding your own healthy ingredients. You can mix brown rice into your fried rice to up your whole grain and fiber intake, and add an egg for easy protein, and always add more veggies. Chickpeas and black beans are great protein additions to salads.
If you have chosen to go for a salad, you can always grill your own meat to go with it. That way, you can control the greens to meat ratio and avoid fried or flat-top grill restaurant preparation, which can sometimes soak up a lot of oil.