Ladies' Night Out: Don  t Let it Wreck Your Diet

One night out on the town-what harm could it do?  While it may help relieve stress, give you a few hours away from your kids, or just help you stay in touch with good friends, a night out with the girls could do more harm than good when you're trying to stick to a healthy diet or lose a few pounds.

According to Meredith Young, PhD, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada, it's not just what you eat that matters when you dine out at a restaurant, it's who you eat with. Dr. Young and several of her students conducted an observational study in three large university cafeterias. The results, published in the online journal Appetite, found that women who eat with other women consume more calories than women who eat just with men or in a mixed group of men and women. In fact, the more men there were at the table, the fewer calories women consumed.

"We know from other research that people who eat less are considered more attractive and perceived to have more positive personality traits," says Dr. Young. "Women may be consciously or unconsciously moderating their consumption when they want to appear more attractive to potential mates, but let their hair down, so to speak, when they are with other women."

But New York City registered dietitian and nutrition blogger Jessica Levinson says that's no reason to avoid your gal pals, and she offers these tips for lowering the calorie count when you're out with them:

Go tapas-style, even if you're not at a tapas restaurant. Appetizer-size portions that are shared with the group allow you to sample lots of different foods without overindulging in any one of them.  Choose mostly dishes that feature vegetables and lean proteins like fish and chicken or turkey breast, and just a couple that highlight nutritious carbs like sweet potatoes or brown rice.

Skip the dacquiris, mud slides, and pina coladas. Stick to wine or clear alcohol like vodka or gin mixed with seltzer, club soda or diet soda instead of higher calorie mixers. Turn your glass of wine into a spritzer so it lasts longer and there are fewer calories in every sip. 

Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water and sip water between bites of food. You'll stay hydrated (which helps prevent a hangover), plus all that calorie-free water will help fill you up so you eat and drink a little less of everything else.

Wherever you decide to eat, think spa food, not bar food.  Better yet, spend girls-night-out at a mini spa.  Instead of dinner and drinks, celebrate your friendship with a massage and manicure.

Or, if you really want to eat and drink, consider hosting a "Ladies Night In," where everyone brings a healthy dish and you can control the amount of alcohol in your cocktails. At-home parties are less of a strain on your waistline (and less of a drain on your pocketbook)!




Jessica Levinson, R.D.


McMaster University