Health Watch: Eating Out
You can eat healthy when dining out, if you know how. The occasional slice of pizza won’t do you any harm. It is important to remember your average food intake over a few days, not just in a single meal. So if you eat a not-so-healthy meal once in a while, you can balance it out with healthier foods the rest of that day and week.
So, if you’re treating yourself to a meal out, here are some tips to help make it a dining experience that is both tasty and good for you.
Choose Restaurants that have Health Friendly Practices: Check with the restaurant if they do the following:
- Accommodate requests on cooking instructions and ingredients.
- Use lean cuts of meat and trim visible fat from poultry or meats.
- Offer margarine instead of butter, and low fat milk instead of cream.
- As far as possible, avoid fast food chains and all-you-can-eat buffets as they promote overeating.
Order Take Away: Studies show that people tend to consume more food at tables other than their own kitchen tables. By taking the food home, you also have the option of balancing out your restaurant food with healthier side dishes such as fruit or vegetables.
Read the Menu Carefully: Many restaurants indicate healthy choices on their menus, and some places will even prepare menu items as per your request. Few points can be kept in mind like:
- Start your meal with salads & veggies to fill yourself up with fiber. Salads with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and lighter dressings will be better than salads with cheeses, meats and heavy dressings.
- Always go for steamed, boiled, poached, roasted and broiled dishes instead of fried and sautéed ones.
- While ordering sandwiches, ask for whole wheat bread.
- Stick with a glass of water, lemon juice, unsweetened tea or other drinks without sugars instead of drinking a high-calorie soft drink.
- For desserts, fresh fruit salad or sorbets are the best alternative.
Feel Free to Special Order: Try to modify the menu. Never hesitate to request for the food to be prepared in a more diet friendly manner. For example:
- Ask for your veggies and main dishes to be served without the sauces.
- Ask if things are fried or cooked in oil or butter – if they are, see if you can order them in a more healthy way.
Keep an Eye on Portion Size: Portion sizes at restaurants are usually double or triple the quantity that a person would normally eat, so it is important to keep that in mind when ordering. Some ways to do this include:
- Choose a “small” or “medium” portion for main dishes.
- Skip fries altogether and choose a salad and a bottle of water.
- Always ask for a large serve of steamed or stir-fry vegetables or salad as part of your meal.
Replace High Saturated and Trans Fat Foods: Foods high in saturated and trans fat can contribute to obesity, high blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Restaurant meals are likely to include fried foods including hot chips and fried fish or chicken, hamburgers, pizza, pies, pastries and pasta with creamy pasta sauces. Following are a few suggested meal substitutions to reduce saturated and trans fat:
- Replace fried beef or chicken and fried rice, with a non-veg/ vegetable stir-fry dish with steamed rice.
- Choose salads with a wide variety of vegetables and grains. Examples include taboula or greek salad with lots of added vegetables.
- Cut down creamy and very oily salad dressings.
- Other healthy choices of food include:
- Lentil, tomato or vegetable based soups.
- Lean meat salads without creamy dressings.
- Lentil or vegetable curries.
- Pasta with tomato based sauces.
- Skinless or tandoori style chicken (without the skin).
Remember the Big Picture: Cut back on your earlier meals that day. Moderation is always key, but planning ahead can help you relax and enjoy your dining experience without losing out on good nutrition or diet control.
Food Items Which can be Ordered and Avoided at Different Types of Restaurant
Here is a list of food items which can be ordered and avoided at different types of restaurant:
Chinese Restaurant: Wonton or hot & sour soup, stir-fried vegetable dishes, white or brown rice, chow mien dishes, and most vegetable-based dishes.
Avoid: Anything bread or fried, especially egg rolls, sweet-and-sour dishes (very high calorie), and any dish sauteed in large amounts of oil.
North Indian Restaurant: Roti/naan, different varieties of dal (without ghee), paneer tikka, grilled veg & non-veg, variety of kababs, salted lassi, chach.
Avoid: Thick gravies, white gravies, deep fried foods, kofta curries.
South Indian Restaurant: Paper, plain & set Dosa, rawa idli, upma, vermicelli baath, rasam, sambhar, tomato & green chutney, buttermilk, iddiappam, kesri baath, payassam.
Avoid: Coconut based gravies, coconut chutney.
Italian Restaurant: Minestrone, any grilled lean meat or seafood, vegetable dishes without cream, pasta with marinara sauce.
Avoid: Cheese dressings and fondues.
Mexican Restaurant: Corn-tortilla soup, bean-and-rice dishes without cheese, chicken fajitas without cheese, corn tortilla, or tacos.
Avoid: Flour tortillas and chips, cheese sauces, guacamole, beef dishes and burritos. cream sauces, dishes topped with cheeses, breaded and fried foods.
Fast Food Restaurant: Scrambled eggs, English muffin with no butter, orange juice, small burger with no cheese or sauce, grilled chicken sandwiches without sauce, salad with low-cal dressing, small single layer cheese pizza with vegetable toppings.
Avoid: Everything else.