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Navigating Bread and Butter at the Restaurant

Bread and ButterIf you are a business traveler, you are probably getting your fair share of bread and butter. It is part and parcel of life on the road. Unfortunately, however, the bread and butter at lunch and dinner adds tons of unnecessary calories and fat to your travel diet. Although the occasional piece of bread slathered with butter can be okay, as a regular part of your diet it could be adding several unwanted extra pounds. As a result, you have a few choices:

  1. Just Say No: Most restaurants’ bread baskets consist of breads that are made with refined or white flour. In short, this represents lots of empty calories. If you dine out regularly, the best solution might be to tell the waiter or waitress that you would prefer that they didn’t bring any bread or butter at all.
  2. Focus on the Fat: Personally, when I sit down for dinner and the bread and butter soon follow, I ask the waiter or waitress to bring olive oil. Nutritionally, the case for olive oil is a no brainer.  Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, while butter is a saturated fat.  Olive oil helps lower cholesterol (essentially lowering risk of heart disease), protects against wrinkles and reduces oxidative damage and helps in absorption of fat-soluble antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin E and lycopene found in many antioxidant-rich vegetables. On the other hand, butter – a saturated fat – is known to raise LDL, the bad type of cholesterol, and therefore may increase your risk of heart disease. In a study done by the International Journal of Obesity, people who had olive oil with their bread consumed more olive oil on each piece of bread than those given butter. On the other hand, they ended up consuming less bread in total.
  3. Focus on the Bread: Some restaurants are getting on the healthy band wagon, and as a result, may provide whole wheat or whole grain rolls or bread by request. Although they can’t as easily replace the bread as the can with the butter, ask the waitstaff if they have any whole wheat or whole grain options instead of traditional white.
  4. Limit Yourself: If you are desperately wanting bread and butter, and you have no control over the kind of bread, take the approach of moderation. Try to limit yourself to no more than one piece of bread and one pat of butter. Although this can vary, you can assume that one piece of French bread and 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter equate to about 150 to 175 calories.

When dining out at a restaurant, do you pass on the bread and butter? Have you tried any of the above tips?  Do you have any tricks you want to share?

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