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Eating out can be healthy
Meera Jadhav |
December 26, 2005
A dream date, a pay hike, an anniversary or get-together -- all these have two things in common. Good fun and great food. The catchword here is 'good'.
One of the most common reasons for weight gain is an evening out. The weight-watcher seldom realises what havoc a small slice of pastry can create with a carefully planned diet. Yes, eating out is a part of our lives. It's easy, quick and one of life's simple pleasures. But can we keep it healthy?
The answer is yes, provided you watch the calories and make healthy choices.
When you are watching your weight, you have to plan ahead and choose wisely.
Not everyone has the same nutritional goals. For some, cutting calories is most important. Others may need to limit cholesterol, fat, sugar and salt, or eat more food high in fibre. Consult a nutritionist to identify your goals. Ask for suggestions about eating out. If you are planning a special occasion, ask about adding some special food items of your choice.
Mind the basics
Keep the ground rules of good nutrition in mind. Eat a variety of foods in moderate amounts, limit the amount of fat you eat, and watch the amount of salt and sugar. Follow the guidelines you've worked out with your nutritionist.
What you order is the key.
It's easy to eat an entire day's worth of fat, salt, sugar and calories with one fast-food meal. But it's also possible to make wise choices and eat a fairly healthy meal. A lifestyle that includes healthy eating does not mean you have to give up or abstain from the pleasurable experience of dining out.
Tips you could use
~ As a beverage choice, ask for water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or any drink without added sugars.
~ Broth-based soups or fruit juices make good lower-fat appetizers.
~ For sandwiches, ask for whole wheat bread.
~ Avoid French fries or potato chips that usually accompany sandwiches. Ask to have them replaced with fresh fruit or a baked potato.
~ At a restaurant, begin your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
~ Ask for salad dressing on the side. Use only as much as you want.
~ Choose main dishes that include vegetables -- stir fries, kebabs, or pasta with tomato sauce are good options.
~ Order steamed, grilled, baked, dry sautéed, poached or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
~ Choose entrees with fruits and vegetables as key ingredients. Enjoy the flavours they offer. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of dietary fibre as well as vitamins and minerals.
~ Choose foods made with whole grains. Examples include whole-wheat bread, chappatis and dishes made with brown rice.
~ Choose chappatis or butterless rotis over puris or parathas.
~ Enjoy foods flavoured with fresh herbs rather than fats such as oil and butter.
~ Add little or no butter to your food.
~ Ask for skinless chicken or lean cut meat. Grilled fish is a better choice than fried.
~ When ordering Italian, choose tomato-based sauces instead of cream or Alfredo sauces.
~ Oriental foods can be good choices. Order steamed rice and stir-fried entrees that feature small portions of chicken, fish, or lean meat with lots of vegetables. Always request that your dinner be prepared with less oil.
~ Take half your meal home. The second half can serve as a second meal!
~ If you want to eat less, order two appetizers, or an appetizer and a salad.
~ Limit alcohol, which adds calories but no nutrition to your meal.
~ If you have craving for dessert, opt for something low-fat like a sorbet, fat free yoghurt, fresh berries or fruit. Choose seasonal fresh fruits for desserts.
~ Share a dessert with a friend. Half the dessert equals half the calories.
Always remember not to deprive yourself of foods you love. All foods can fit into a well-balanced diet if you make the right choices.
Other general guidelines you could keep in mind while eating out include planning what you will eat in advance, eating slowly, choosing low fat options, picking a menu item over a buffet, avoiding high calorie beverages and splitting large portions into two.
With the right choices, eating out can be fun even while staring the weighing machine in the face.
Meera Jadhav is a nutrition and fitness consultant. She has a degree in nutrition and a postgraduate diploma in Sports Science and Nutrition. She is also a Certified BFY (Better Fitness for You) Fitness trainer and Reebok Aerobics Trainer.
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