Dine out with confidence


You can eat out and eat healthy too. With a little planning and preparation, you can easily develop a strategy for eating out without blowing your diet.

Suggestions for Eating in Specific Types of Restaurants

There is a myriad of healthy snacks and meal options available and they are just as affordable and delicious as the higher fat and less nutritious versions. With a little bit of effort and willpower, you can navigate your way around the available food choices and maintain your health. Try these simple tips and you will relish your favorite cuisine without any guilt pangs.

1. European cuisine-

When ordering main entrees, look for items that are steamed, braised, roasted, simmered, or stir fried (ask for foods to be stir fried with little or no oil). Replace the bacon with smoked salmon on sandwiches. Try to avoid sauces or ask for all sauces (including creamy salad dressing, mayonnaise and butter) on the side so you can control the amount you use. Go for the smaller portion size if you have a choice or share your food with others. It’s the easiest way to reduce the temptation to overeat. Ask for rice, whole wheat pasta (thin crust) instead of French fries, or vegetables without butter. Order grilled fish or vegetables prepared with little or no butter or oil.

2. Oriental or Chinese cuisine-

Most soups on a Chinese menu are very low in fat, and a great way to start a meal. I suggest clear chicken or vegetable soup such as Tom yum or talumien soup or even coriander soup. They are low in calorie content, devoid of corn starch and also provide satiety. Choose steamed dumplings (veg and non-veg, as per choice) with plain rice and noodles, such as lemon chicken in ginger sauce with steamed rice or Oriental chicken salad (garden vegetables and mixed greens tossed with light garlic vinaigrette, served without wonton strips) along with plain rice noodles. You can even go one step further in the direction of health and ask for brown rice (rich in complex carbohydrates) recipes.

Order more of vegetable-based dishes or dishes with high proportion of vegetables. Spinach stir fried with garlic, shanghai cucumbers, shrimp/prawns with black beans, mushrooms and broccoli, etc are a few recommended dishes. Most Chinese cuisine is very high in sodium, from the use of Monosodium glutamate and soy sauce so opt for dishes prepared without them and with hot mustard, sesame seed paste and plum sauce.

3. Mexican cuisine

Since Mexican foods are usually high in sodium, potassium and phosphorus, it would be helpful to order from the a la carte menu. Study the menu carefully and understand the specific ingredients of a particular menu item, before placing an order. A good food choice would be a taco with chicken and lettuce with plain rice or a whole wheat tortilla filled with beans in tomato sauce.

4. Italian cuisine

Italian sauces should be used sparingly as they are high in sodium and fat content and are usually already mixed with the pasta or rice dish. A good choice would be salad, whole wheat bread and a wheat or rice based pasta without much sauce and with herbs such as garlic, oregano and mint. If you eat pizza, eat one slice and supplement with a green salad. A pizza with chicken, green pepper and/or onions would be preferable to a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and/or extra cheese.

5. Indian cuisine-

Indian cuisine includes perhaps the most dazzling array of fresh vegetables and fruit cooked in a multitude of ways that help retain their freshness and nutrients. That said, like any other cuisine, Indian food also has its decadent and “sinful” dishes. . Tandoor dishes like Chicken tikka, grilled mushrooms, Tandoori fish are preferable items to be included in your Order List. Vegetable dishes such as shashlik , tandoori subzi, tawa bhaaji and steamed dishes like Idlis, dhoklas ,and khandvis are preferred. Roomali roti, naans or paranthas are best avoided as they are laden with saturated fats and are made up of maida or refined flour, which are deficient in fiber, high on glycemic index and a complete no-no for weight watchers. Also try to avoid the rich gravies and creamy preparations like Dal makhanis and butter chicken.

6. Fast Food-

Generally, fast food meals are higher in calories, sodium and fat, and are often without much nutritional value. When choosing, be extra careful about the portion sizes and accompaniments like colas, French fries and creamy dips. Healthy fast food choices would be grilled chicken or fish sandwich (whole wheat), low fat vegetable deli sandwiches, wraps on wheat tortillas without dressings, fruit yoghurts, salads with fat free dressings, wheat rolls with beans, etc.

A few more guidelines for eating out and staying healthy-

Following a few simple rules when you are eating out will make it possible to maintain your nutritious diet even when you are away from home or on the road.

1. Avoid buffets– All-you-can-eat buffets promote overeating, so they are best avoided.

2. Make careful menu selections- Main courses which have been baked, broiled, roasted, poached or steamed would be preferred. Salads with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and lighter dressings will be better than salads with croutons, cheeses, meats and heavy dressings.

3. As an appetizer, order soups made with broth rather than cream and prefer salsas and simply stir fried veggies instead of the gravies and rich sauces.

4. Salads can be an excellent way to add vitamins and fiber whilst also adding color and variety to your meal. Tossed salad greens with olive oil or vinegar as dressing are generally a good choice. Be careful to ask for other dressings on the side and use it only sparingly.

5.Watch the portion size- Eat the same portions out that you do at home and incase of large servings offered, keep a doggy bag besides and take away the excess.

6.Try herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee or fresh fruits for dessert.

Pick a restaurant with a variety of choices to increase your chances of finding the foods you want. Eating out can be one of life’s great pleasures and need not be a cause for panic for dieters. Make the right choices, ask for what you need, and balance your meals out with healthy meals at home. You can enjoy yourself and take good care of your waist and overall health at the same time.

So go ahead and make the most of your dining out experience!

ANJALI MUKERJEE, Nutritionist, Founder Director-Health Total, having health centers
in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune -manages obesity & other health related disorders.
Contact numbers: 1800 8918131/+91 86575 61727
For further information, Visit www.health-total.com

January 28, 2021

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