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Enjoy Food Dates Without Wrecking Your Diet

Try these tips to make those romantic food dates less fattening.

One Meal Won’t Matter, Right?

But come on, you say: One super-rich, greasy, or creamy meal isn’t going to harm your health, right? Research from Australia and Sweden says "wrong!"

The researchers fed a meal that was high in either saturated fat or polyunsaturated fat meal on two separate occasions to 14 healthy men and women. (A high-saturated-fat meal is typical of a special restaurant dinner).

The researchers found that several hours after the high-saturated fat meal, there was a decrease in the ability of the study subjects' "good" (HDL) cholesterol to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and to help arteries relax (which allows for better blood flow). But the anti-inflammatory action of HDLs improved after the subjects ate polyunsaturated fat.

So avoiding restaurant meals high in saturated fat is definitely a good idea -- whether you're trying to lose weight or not.

Don’t Check in to Heartburn Hotel

For the 10% of the population who experience heartburn and reflux daily, a romantic dinner out can lead to pain instead of love and laughter. According to Anthony A. Starpoli, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Reflux (GERD) Unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, the biggest mistake people make is eating large meals when they dine out.

Large meals, even when a person is of normal weight, can physically put pressure on the stomach. And when there is pressure on the stomach, stomach acid has a better chance of splashing up into the esophagus (causing heartburn).

If you have acid reflux and you want to enjoy your food date and après-dinner activities, besides not overeating, Starpoli suggests:

  • Pacing yourself and giving your stomach time to empty.
  • Avoiding fatty and rich foods.
  • Limiting alcohol.
  • Continuing to take your acid reflux medications if you take them.

And as tempting as it might be to strap on your snuggest outfit for the big night out -- don’t, Starpoli suggests in an email interview. Tight-fitting clothing may increase abdominal pressure and worsen your reflux, he says.

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Reviewed on March 13, 2007

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