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Eating out? SEVEN ways to make healthy choices!

Last updated on: December 15, 2011 17:23 IST

Eating out? SEVEN ways to make healthy choices!



At a time when eating out is becoming more of a rule than an exception, little choices you make can go a long way.

Eating out has indeed become a favourite urban weekend activity.

Add to that the weekday business lunches, birthday parties, and get-togethers at the restaurants, and you will realise that many of us end up eating out more than thrice in a week.

You do know that it is not the best thing for your health, but many a times it seems to be unavoidable. However, these visits to the eateries need not always leave you feeling guilty or stop you from losing the extra kilos you have been struggling to lose.

With some knowledge and judicious choices you can save yourself from guzzling hundreds of unwanted calories and harmful fats at your next restaurant meal.


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The healthy recipe keyword

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To make healthier choices at a restaurant, familiarise yourself with the words that indicate dishes likely to be healthier and low in saturated fat. Typically this would mean dishes that are:

  • Grilled
  • Barbequed
  • Roasted
  • Tandoori
  • Steamed
  • Baked
  • Stir-fried

Descriptions such as 'in its own juice' and 'garden fresh' also indicate that the recipe does not include too much added fat.

The menu card in most good restaurants has a brief description of the dish. Look for the keywords listed above to place a healthier order. In case a description is not available, do not hesitate to ask what a fancy sounding preparation actually contains.

Doing this will not only help you select the low fat dishes but can also save you from ending up eating something that you absolutely do not like.

Image: Dishes like steamed dumplings are usually a healthy option while eating out
Photographs: Marshall Astor/Creative Commons

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It is not a must to have a three-course meal!

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Just as some cooking keywords indicate healthy, some words basically mean drenched in fat!

Ordering them is not the best thing for your heart or waistline.

If you find the following words used to describe a dish, think seriously if you really want to have it:

  • Deep fried
  • In a rich gravy
  • In butter or cream sauce
  • In coconut milk
  • In cheese sauce
  • Au gratin
  • Hollandaise

Image: Avoid deep fried and junk food

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Go easy on the sodium

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Making good choices at a restaurant is not only about controlling the fat and calories. Watch out for the excess sodium as it is a well-known risk factor for high blood pressure.

One meal at a restaurant can be piled with your four days' quota of recommended sodium intake. You can reduce the havoc by keeping these points in mind:

Keep your hands off the complimentary basket of chips and peanuts.

Request a green salad with only pepper and lemon juice dressing if you must munch on something till your main order arrives.

Avoid the ketchup and pickles as these are typically very high in sodium.

Soups are also generally high in sodium. Order one only if you really feel like it.

Many restaurants serve canned foods, fruits, and juices, particularly as a part of a buffet breakfast. Check whether they would rather give you fresh seasonal juice or fruit.

Choosing steamed, stir fried, or grilled dishes in place of ones with sauce or gravy will not only reduce your fat intake but also brings down the sodium.

Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurant food is generally high in sodium content. Avoid having them too often.

Do not hesitate to ask if it would be possible for the chef to keep the salt on the lower side. You can always use the saltshaker if required.

Image: Watch that salt
Photographs: Courtesy Venice nutrition / Creative Commons

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Make use of the takeaway box

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Do not continue eating if you are already full. Just ask the waiter to put the rest in a takeaway box.

Remember that restaurants are hospitality industry and you are the customer. It's their business to make you happy, so do not hesitate.

Of course it's not possible to pack all kinds of dishes but three slices of your pizza or half a bowl of biryani can make another meal so there is no point pushing it down your throat when you are already stuffed.

Image: Don't stuff yourself if you're full. Those extra slices of pizza could be an entire meal for later.
Photographs: Robert/Creative Commons

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Who needs French fries?

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A perfectly healthy grilled vegetable sandwich becomes a fatty meal if you have the French fries that come along with it.

A good number of preparations come with fries and chips. You can do yourself a favour by asking the waiter to not put any fries or chips on your plate.

Ask for some more of the salad instead. They should be happy to accommodate such a request.

Image: Dump the French fries
Photographs: Biser Todorov/Creative Commons
Tags: French

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Healthy choices in some cuisines

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Here is a short list of good options from some cuisine types to help you place a healthier order.
Chinese: Steamed or stir-fried seafood, chicken, bean curd or vegetable dishes with steamed rice.

Italian: Pasta in light sauces like primavera (vegetables); and marinara (tomatoes, onions, garlic).

Mexican: Grilled shrimp, fajitas and salsa.

Greek, Lebanese, Middle-Eastern: Dishes with chickpeas, eggplant, tomatoes, grains -- like hummus, baba ganouj, chicken with pita, fish cooked in tomatoes.

Image: Every cuisine has healthy choices, even Mexican

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