Usually eating out is synonymous to indulgence! We tend to select items on the menu that instantly appeal to our senses. The colour, smell and flavours of outside food often compel us to ditch our judgement about healthy and nutritious. Even for those who have made the resolve to lose weight or eat healthy or simply stay fit, occasions to eat out makes them feel helpless and lost. Well, we ought to know that from among the many options available, there are quite a few healthy ones as well. While it is difficult to completely dodge the hidden fat and calories, it is possible to reduce their burden to some extent.
Unlike food packets bought at a store, hotel menus or takeaway meals do not come with a nutrition label. Besides, the recipes contain trademark closely guarded secret ingredients that are often not spelled out entirely on the menu . Several additives including colours and preservatives are added to enhance the taste, smell, and colour of the food. — for example, seasonings, sauces, cheesy toppings or dressings.
Unknowingly we add on calories by consumption of these.
Here a few tip to eat smart while eating out
Soup- When eating out at a fine dining or chinese restaurant, do make it a point to start with soup. Soups cannot be very calorie dense and will contain a healthy mix of vegetables/ pulses/meat. Of course, choosing a clear sup versus a creamy /heavy one can help to avoid extra fats.
- Vegetable clear soup
- Chicken clear soup
- Tomato shorba
- Vegetable sweet corn
Salad- All restaurants these days do offer a decent variety of salads for their health-conscious patrons. Salads at restaurant look more exciting and taste great compared to ones at home because they make use of some of the exotic vegetables and spices which may not be available to us easily or we do not find it practical to stock them up
- couscous / quinoa salad,
- mexican salad with guacamole or vinaigrette,
- salad with alfa alfa, etc
Starters/ Appetizers – Go for appetizers that include vegetable or fish or pulse/cottage cheese. Avoid fried or breaded appetizers, which are generally high in calories.
- eggplant singapore
- chilli paneer/ mushrooms/ babycorn (non fried)
Breads/ Roti- Choosing whole grains is not quite possible while eating out because not many options are available. Whole wheat flour bread or parathas can be chosen instead of those made from refined flour .
- Plain roti instead of butter roti / lachcha paratha
- Plain naan instead of butter or garlic naan
Main dish – Main dishes are the major culprits as they are calorie and fat dense. The North Indian gravies make use of cashews and heavy cream, pastas are made with extra cheese and cream, fried foods contain bread crumbs and maida, and many more unhealthy ingredients. To steer clear of these, order for some of the simple dishes
- Tava/handi vegetables instead of tikka masala
- Stir fried vegetables
- Dal tadka instead of dal fry /makhani
- Grilled chicken instead of butter chicken
Dessert. If you can skip the dessert, it is half the battle won! But we know that it may not be easy, however you can definitely share your dessert. ng it with one of your companions.
- Fresh fruit yogurt
- Chenna based sweets
Largely, South Indian food is more healthy and complete than North Indian counterparts. One cannot over-do idlis, dosas, pongal, appam,etc. Also, portion sizes these days are too large so one must always order less in the beginning and then see if you are still hungry for more.
There is a certain amount of joy and excitement attached to eating out with family, friends or colleagues and hence we do not condemn the idea. But remember that you can reach a win-win situation if you follow some of the above tips.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.