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Eating out - some tips

Posted by Elizebath Bijoy Friday, March 4, 2011

Eating out has become a routine aspect of one’s life. No longer is that lavish buffet lunch reserved for weekends and eating with friends nor is the guilt-inducing a la carte elaborate dinner for special occasions alone. Even if eating out used to imply eating at a restaurant, the development of takeaway menus and ease of home-delivered food have added to the indulgence in foods cooked away from the home. In a sense, you have no idea what you are eating when you eat out.
You are not aware of the measures of butter, cheese, oil, fats, spices,salt, etc., that go into the dish that you consume at a restaurant.This can be a serious drawback when calculating portion sizes or tryingto estimate the calories derived from a single meal out. 
Most restaurants have also started serving larger portions that may provide anywhere between 3 and 5 times the recommended calories and nutrients in a competitive gimmick. 
All this adds up adversely on your waistline and shows up as higher lipid levels on your blood exam. But all is not lost! You need not stop eating out or eat unappetizingentrees just to keep your weight in check. Here are a few tips to smartand healthy eating out. 
Dining step 1: Prepare yourself 
This is a proactive measure to counter unhealthy food when you eat out.
  • Spoil your appetite. Have a substantial but healthy snack, such as a hard-boiled egg or some leftover salad or a soup before you leave for dinner. This will restrain your appetite and will also hinder you from overboard appetizer choices which can really pack a wallop in the caloric sense.
  • Decide about the restaurant you want to eat in beforehand so you are prepared for the menu and will not be swayed by unrealistic choices.
  • Avoid the bread basket and other fried items that most restaurants provide. This will cut nearly a fourth or fifth of the total calories you may have consumed in the meal otherwise.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, or if you must indulge, then restrict yourself to a single drink. If you find yourself unable to enjoy a meal without a fancy drink, it may be better to order a fruit soda or low-sugar fizzy drink instead of alcohol which can play havoc with your body’s fluid balance while adding unnecessary calories.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after every meal.
Dining step 2: Order with confidence
  • Do not be intimidated by servers. Feel free to clear any doubts you may have about the appropriateness of the dish for your needs.
  • Be aware of portion sizes. This will prevent the mistake of ordering too much and then regretfully using yourself as a ‘waste’ basket.
  • Plan to leave some food on your plate—or have half of the food packed before it even comes to your table. This is a wise move because most of us would finish extra food if it were on our plate, even if we are full.
  • Appetizers tend to have smaller or more realistic portion sizes so it may be better order a favorite as a meal along with a salad. Or you can even order two appetizers if you plan on ordering a vegetarian-based appetizer that is lower in fat.
  • Ask away first. Ask whether your choice is going to be fried, the type of sauce it comes with, the side dishes served with it, and choice of rice or bread—whether it is white or brown. If you have a choice, opt for the healthier choice.
  • Do not experiment with a new dish when you are hungry. You may order too much food, overeat and then regret it later. Instead order something that has worked for you well in the past.
  • Order plenty of vegetables—salads, vegetable-ba sed entrees, or sauteed vegetables—with every meal.
  • Sip some broth or clear soup. This is a high-volume food and will fill you up. Avoid cream-based or thick soups.
  • Ask for your grilled dishes to be prepared without oil or butter or with very minimal amounts.
  • While ordering pasta dishes, order your pasta with tomato-based sauces instead of cream sauces.
  • Order steamed vegetables as a side dish.
  • Salsa is a better alternative to sour cream or other cream-based sauces, as it is much lower in caloric content.
  • Look for items that are baked, poached, grilled, sauteed or boiled as these have fewer calories.
  • Choose foods made with whole grains.

Dining step 3: Finish with a treat
  • Ordering the right food does not take care of your diet. You will need to stay alert so that you do not end up overeating. If there is excess food, have it wrapped. You need not find this regrettable as the positive part is that you already have tomorrow’s lunch or dinner already prepared!
  • End your meal with a healthy herbal tea. A lot of restaurants offer a variety of exotic teas and these can work out as a healthy replacement for dessert.
  • If you have gone with your family or a group of friends, order a dessert for the table. You can limit yourself to three or four bites of a favorite, sinful dessert as long as someone else finishes the rest.
Tips for eating at fast-food restaurants
  • Avoid all extra sauces or have them on the side so you can add them yourself and control the portions.
  • Avoid soft drinks and have plain water instead.
  • Look up the nutrient information of the fast foods you usually indulge in. This way, you can plan what you want to eat and will subconsciously gravitate to healthier, lower-calorie choices.
  • Avoid using large helpings of salad dressing; and always opt for lighter salad dressings.
  • Choose grilled options over fried wherever possible.
  • Choose mustard over mayonnaise wherever possible as mustard hardly has any calories as compared to mayonnaise.
  • Opt for baked potato instead of french fries.
Tips for eating at an Indian restaurant
Choices to savor include:
  • Tandoori dishes or dishes roasted in the tandoor as they contain lesser oil.
  • Dishes made with green vegetables, usually called ‘saag’.
  • Dishes such as tikkas that are marinated in spices and then roasted in the tandoor.
  • Raita or yoghurt served with chopped or grated vegetables.
  • Roti or unleavened bread is a safer option than white rice or breads made with white flour, such as naan.
Choices to watch include:
  • Dishes made with cream, nuts, or other heavy bases, such as korma, koftas, etc.
  • Dishes cooked with rice, such as biryani.
  • Dishes with butter and tomato sauce, such as masala or butter paneer, butter chicken, etc.
  • Chutneys that are sweet or have coconut or nuts in them as they are rich in calories.
  • Side dishes with crisp fried breads, papads, samosa, etc.


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