You spend the workweek monitoring every morsel you put in your mouth but then go hog wild once the weekend hits. You're not alone: The average American consumes 115 calories more per day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday than at other times, according to a study in Obesity Research. That can add up to 5 lbs. this year!
But if you know the common pitfalls, you can steer clear of them. Here, diet experts reveal their personal strategies for avoiding weekend temptations.
Friday Night: TGIF Drinks With Co-workers
"A lot of people forget about the calories in alcohol, and that can mean the difference between maintaining a healthy weight and gaining," says Susan Burke, chief nutritionist for eDiets.com. "You can have up to 600 empty calories in a glass if you're not careful, especially with the jumbo tropical drinks that are popular this time of year." Plus, when your inhibitions are lowered, you are more likely to stray from your diet and reach for high-calorie bar snacks like nuts and chips.
Lighten up: "It doesnt need to be all or nothing. You can just have one or two drinks," says Burke. "If I'm out with a group of people, I'll have a light beer or a diet soda with rum, for about 100 calories or if I'm being really serious about cutting calories, I'll have sparkling water with lots of lime. No one knows the difference."
Saturday Night: Dinner With Friends
"Many times when you're dining out on the town, you tend to leave your diet at home and splurge," says Burke. "And even if you order something that sounds healthy, like salmon, the dish might come out smothered in butter or cream sauce, and be large enough to serve two people!"
Lighten up: Stick to simply prepared foods. Scour the menu for words like "grilled," "baked" and "broiled," and order from those choices. "I usually get a grilled chicken or fish dish (a serving should be about the size of a deck of cards), with any sauces on the side and a plain baked potato with salsa," she says. "Another strategy is to order a house salad with an appetizer as your main course, especially if you want a summery pasta dish the main-course serving is likely to be about three times more than you need."
You can also make smarter choices about where you eat, says Tampa, Fla.-based nutritionist Cynthia Sass. "I avoid all-you-can-eat spots, where I might feel the need to overindulge just to get my moneys worth, and opt for more diet-friendly ethnic restaurants like Thai, Japanese or Mediterranean."
Sunday Morning: Brunch at the Diner
"Many breakfast foods, like biscuits and pancakes, are cooked in butter, and then you cover them with even more butter once they're on the table," says Burke. "Plus, the portions at most breakfast joints keep getting bigger. You don't need to waste 1,000 calories on a four-egg omelet or a jumbo stack of pancakes."
Lighten up: "I order an egg-white omelet filled with every veggie that's in season, and ask to have it cooked dry and served with a side of whole wheat toast," she says. "Dont be afraid to tell the waitress what you want if she brings you buttered toast or an omelet dripping with grease, send it back." Sass chooses to make her morning meal out of healthy side dishes. "Ill have one egg instead of the entire omelet, a small dish of sliced fruit, and either oatmeal, whole wheat toast or a single pancake," she says. "That's a very reasonable and energizing breakfast."
Sunday Afternoon: Neighborhood Picnic
While a plain 4-oz. hamburger has only about 400 calories, "chowing down on snacks like nuts, cheese chunks and chips with creamy dip can mean youve eaten thousands of calories before you've even sat down for the main meal," says Burke.
Lighten up: "When I'm having people over, I'll put out a platter of baby carrots and other veggies, along with a low-fat cream dip and a big bowl of salsa," says Burke. Another healthy snack she serves? Dry-roasted peanuts in the shell. "It takes longer to eat them because you have to work for your treat," she explains. "Plus, when you grab a handful of shelled peanuts, that's about 200 calories in the shell, you can only hold about 50 calories' worth!"