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.

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. Order grilled fish or vegetables prepared with little or no butter or oil.

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).

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.

Mexican cuisine

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 or a whole wheat tortilla filled with beans in tomato sauce.

Italian cuisine

A good choice would be salad, whole wheat bread and a wheat 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.

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.

General note on eating out

  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, take away the excess.

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!

March 7, 2019

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