Eating out is very common in today’s world. One does not want to be the odd one out by always refusing to eat out with friends, family and colleagues in a bid to eat good home cooked meals and sticking to their health goals. Also, people are travelling more from what they used to once – whether it is for work or for leisure. However, it is possible to have a balanced and healthy lifestyle while still eating outside of home. All that is needed is making sound choices.
While eating food at a restaurant or at a food café or at a buffet, we may not know which food options are loaded with fat and calories. This becomes difficult for people on weight loss programs or those with clinical conditions. But, it does not mean that they do not eat out. Today healthier options are available at restaurants and food cafés and good choices can be made at buffets.
Just following the simple guidelines below will help you make healthy and guilt free food choices:
1. Skip the fancy drinks
Both, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks add to only calories in a meal. The margaritas, pina coladas and the other fancy drinks are laden with sugar. If a drink is must, a glass of wine or a simple martini can be an option. For those preferring a non alcoholic drink, buttermilk, jal jeera or a light lemonade can keep away the unwanted calories. However, plain water is always the best option.
2. Appetizers and Soups
Avoid fried or breaded appetizers, which are generally high in calories. Of course, you can also save calories by skipping the appetizer altogether. Steamed appetizers like momos, grilled chicken, dimsums, etc are good options. When choosing soups the best choices are broth-based or tomato-based soups. Cream soups, chowders and pureed soups can contain heavy cream or egg yolks.
3. Salad tips
Those opting for salads before the main course tend to eat fewer overall calories. However, avoid creamy cheese, honey based dressings, cheese, potatoes, bacon, fried noodles, croutons etc in salads as they are high in calories. Instead, squeeze a lemon or try rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar. If you want to order a dressing based salad ask for the dressing on the side as then the amount of dressing you put in the salad will be in your control. A salad with just some vegetables, corn, lean meat or beans could be a great filler. Stir fries can also be a great option instead of the salad to help you avoid eating more calories later.
4. Watch the portion sizes
At restaurants, since the dish ordered is usually sufficient for 2-3 people, split the dish with your partner instead of eating the entire portion yourself. If you are at a fast food restaurant, order the small sized meal instead of the large sized one. Let go of the fries and the carbonated beverages.
5. Make your meals low in fat
When you go out at a restaurant to eat always check how the food is prepared. Check whether the food is broiled, poached, grilled, baked, or steamed as it tends to be lower in fat than foods that are fried. Limit foods that come with cream sauce or gravy. Avoid or have butter, sour cream, gravy, and sauces served on the side. This will allow you to control how much you eat as they are high in fat and calories. While ordering for burgers and sandwiches avoid ordering them with cheese, bacon, and other sweet sauces and opt for whole wheat or multigrain bread with added vegetables. With sandwich meals, choose water and fruit or plain yogurt if they’re available, rather than sugary or carbonated drinks, chips, and fries. Choose seafood, chicken, or lean red meat rather than fatty or processed meats.
6. Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
At fast food restaurant ask if french fries can be replaced by fruit or salad. Order extra vegetables with pizza, sandwiches etc. Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurants have a lot of vegetarian options available. Always opt for brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat or multigrain bread and tortillas instead of white rice, pasta, or white bread.
7. Be aware of overeating at a buffet
Check the entire buffet before you start filling your plate. Always start with a soup (non-creamy, broth based), fill the plate with veggies; opt for non-fried and less oily options. Instead of sugar sweetened beverages opt for plain water, buttermilk or jal jeera. Avoid butter / oil laden kulchas, puris, parathas, butter nan and ask for plain wheat rotis. Instead of desserts go for fresh cut fruit plate. Always wait for 5 to 10 minutes before going for a second helping.
8. Be conscious of what you eat while travelling
At hotel breakfast buffets do not eat large portions. Have a healthy mix of foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins with some fresh fruits. Make healthier food choices at meal times. Always drink plenty of water during travel as that is one aspect often neglected. Pack healthy snack options like roasted makhanas, nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dried fruits like dates, anjeer, apricots, raisins etc to avoid unhealthy snacking. Instead of drinking carbonated beverages always check for the availability of coconut water, buttermilk etc. Fresh fruits are also a good option to keep yourself from indulging in fried and other unhealthy foods.
Dining out does not by any means letting go of your health goals. Following the above tips will let you enjoy eating out with lesser guilt and keep you happy and satisfied. Today, healthy options are available when one wants to eat out, however the guidance on how to make right food choices is needed. Besides individuals taking care of their health goals today, we see companies investing in the health of their employees through their corporate wellness programs as their executives and other employees on the field are constantly on the go. Eating out need not be unpleasant – one can make it enjoyable with sound health with the correct choices. Also for some people it become difficult on weight loss programs or those with clinical conditions. But, it does not mean that they do not eat out. Today healthier options are available at restaurants and food cafés and good choices can be made at buffets.
Arati Shah is an expert nutritionist and she runs her own weight loss centre in Mumbai, Café Nutrition. Having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition along with a Post-Graduation in Sports Sciences and Nutrition from S.N.D.T Juhu, she is one of the top child nutritionist in Mumbai who can also guide the concerned parents about the right nutrition for children with same efficacy. She heads the Nutrition team in Mumbai and takes personal interest in each and every client of Café Nutrition. In addition, her sports nutritionist programs are easy to follow as she works on bringing about a change with our regular food habits.