Restaurant dining has always been a joyful experience for me.

In terms of aesthetics – at lunch, I enjoy the respite from my workday and at dinner, conversations with my husband or friends.

Regarding the food, in both cases I like trying new dishes as well as appreciating old favorites.

But in these last few years, something has changed with regards to my dining out; the amount of food I eat during those meals.

There was a time I could eat a whole sandwich at lunch or a full plate of pasta for dinner. Now, as I search menu options, I look for cups of soup, smaller appetizer portions, side salads or half orders of pasta.

Many times, my husband and I share a meal because the portions are just too large.

The size of our portions in America came clear when I was visiting India for business years ago. I was staying at a hotel and ordered an omelet for breakfast. To be fair, I have always found omelet’s served in America to be huge, and something I could never finish, but the omelet served to me in India was the perfect size.

I calculated it was made with one egg. It fit perfectly on my small plate with one piece of toast.

At the time, I wondered why we couldn’t have the option of smaller portions when eating out in America.  It would help to prevent the enormous amount of food we waste in this country. 

Smaller options may also help with our obesity epidemic.

As people get older, they eat less and make different food choices. They generally have lower calorie needs due to less physical activity, changes in metabolism, and decreases in muscle mass.

These are good reasons for smaller portion options when dining out, especially with the aging of America. So where does one go for those smaller portions in our community?

I will share my choices with you.

I love a good taco. Just one, no rice, no beans, not even any tortilla chips.  Just one taco, which one can order at many places, with steak chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Many fast casual restaurants offer cups of soup, which is often the size of a bowl. Some come with a slice of bread. A delicious cup of pea, vegetable or chicken soup is a complete meal in my book. 

Sometimes at diner-type establishments, I order a scoop of tuna salad with a few sliced tomatoes and some avocado.

Sub shops these days offer a mini sandwich, and often if you ask a deli, they will allow you to order just a half sandwich. 

Sometimes I order a couple of sides, such as a side of broccoli, yams, or quinoa salad.

Grocery stores have good options in their service deli, for example a cooked chicken breast and a scoop of kale salad.

Many Italian restaurants offer half portions of their pasta dishes.

I also have been known to order a side salad with a piece of grilled salmon on the top.

I recognize that I am fortunate that I can enjoy eating out when this may not be an option for those on limited incomes or those who are homebound.

Of course, Meals on Wheels is a possibility for older adults who can enjoy the variety these meals offer.

The one thing I am conscious about as I am consuming less is to be sure my food choices are packed with nutrients as the need for them tends to increase as we age. That means it is important for older adults to focus on nutrient-dense foods that have fewer calories such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts.

Healthy eating is important at any age, but becomes even more so as we reach midlife and beyond.

My mantra these days – less food is more, as long as it’s nutrient packed.

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