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Dieting? Some healthy choices when dining out!

Last updated on: September 13, 2012 17:16 IST

Dieting? Some healthy choices when dining out!



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

Eating out has indeed become a favorite urban weekend activity. Add to that the weekday business lunches, birthday parties, and get-togethers at 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 unavoidable. However, these visits to eateries need not always leave you feeling guilty, or stop you from losing the extra kilos you have been struggling with.

Healthy recipe keywords

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 with what you absolutely do not like.

Image: Grilled foods are likely to be healthier and low in saturated fat
Photographs: Infrogmation of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons


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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 foods that are made in butter and with rich gravy
Photographs: Joshua on Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

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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 (salt), as it is a well-known risk factor for high blood pressure. One meal at a restaurant can be piled with a four day 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. If you must munch on something till your main order arrives, request a green salad with only pepper and lemon juice dressing.
  • 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 can 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 bring 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 salt-shaker if required.

Image: One meal at a restaurant can be piled with a four day quota of recommended salt intake
Photographs: Dubravko Soric SoraZG on Flickr/Wikimedia Commons
Tags: Japanese , Thai

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Make use of the takeaway option instead of stuffing yourself

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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 part of the 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: Avail of a takeaway instead of stuffing yourself after you're already full
Photographs: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons

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Who needs the 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 not to serve any fries or chips with your meal. Ask for some more of the salad instead. They should be happy to accommodate such a request.

Image: A good number of preparations come with fries and chips -- avoid them
Photographs: Biso/Wikimedia Commons
Tags: French

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Healthy choices across cuisines

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Here is a short list of good options from some cuisines 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, salsa

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

Image: Pasta primavera is a healthy Italian option
Photographs: Jeremy Keith on Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

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