I love dining out. I get to try something I might not cook at home plus someone else does the dishes at the end. Win-win.
While someone else might be in control of the kitchen on nights out, it doesn’t mean I let the reins go on my nutrition once I walk through those restaurant doors. I always look for the healthy options on the menu.
When you aren’t cooking for yourself, it can be really hard to know what exactly you are eating.
If the cuisine is foreign or unfamiliar, something you’d never cook at home, it can be even harder. To help you out, I’ve created a guide to healthier choices within different cuisines from around the world.
Thai dishes are generally designed to share, which means you get to sample a diversity of flavours. However sharing can be dangerous. Even if you have just a little of everything it can quickly turn into a LOT of food.
So how do you manage your portion sizes? The trick is to make sure you serve yourself all the food you’d like to eat before you start eating. By doing this, you’ll be completely aware of exactly how much you are eating, instead of filling your plate a second (or third) time.
Hot tip: Make sure you go easy on the rice. I know that rice is perfect for soaking up all those yummy sauces, but be conscious of how much is going on your plate. One cup of cooked white rice is 258 calories – that’s basically a whole meal in itself.
Ideally, your plate should be made up of 25% low GI carbs, 25% lean protein and 50% non-starchy veggies.
When choosing vegetables, go for colour! The more brightly coloured the veggies, the better. Non-starchy veggies contain very few calories so you as many as you want! Watch the sauces – Thai curries can be problematic as they generally contain coconut cream. Coconut cream is full of energy but also saturated fat (the kind of fat that can cause heart disease if you consume it excessively).
Better Thai menu choices:
- Thai Salad – watch the dressing
- Stir fry with Ginger and Shallots OR Chilli and Basil OR Garlic and Pepper Sauce
- Tom Yum OR Tom Jude soups
Also read: Low-Cal Chicken and Broccolini Recipe
Indian meals tend to focus on just one or two main ingredients – say and pack the rest of the meal with amazing spices and flavour. Try to choose a meal that contains vegetables (try something other than potato) rather than just meat based.
Go slow on clean up foods, – the foods that are commonly used to clean your plate – think rice, naan bread or pappadums. These kinds of sides are often where diner can get a bit carried away.
Better Indian menu choices:
- Dhal OR Rasam soup
- Rogan Josh, Saagwala
- Okra Masala
Also read: Nutrient-Rich Soup Recipes
Heading to the pub on a Friday night to ease into the weekend is an Aussie tradition. Pubs can also be a great place for dinner, but you just need to be a little menu savvy.
A great choice is steak or fish grilled with salad (minus the chips) – just watch your portion sizes. It helps to visualise servings. With meat, you should be looking to order a serve the size of your palm and the thickness of your pinkie finger. Pubs kitchens generally don’t follow this rule, so chances are you will have to leave some on your plate.
I tend to choose salads as I like to feel full without the guilt of a massive calorie load, but there are a few things to watch out for. Limit the number of protein and extra items – think meat, seafood, cheese, egg, croutons, dressing etc. I try to limit it to no more than two extra items. Watch the dressing – if it’s going to be a creamy dressing, ask for it on the side so that you can determine exactly how much you eat. Make sure the salad is based on leafy veggies rather than pasta, rice or other carb-heavy ingredients.
Better pub menu choices:
- Grilled Fish of the Day with Salad
- 200g Steak with Salad
- Grilled Haloumi Salad
Some Extra Dining Out Tips…
- If you are eating out don’t order an extra course just to be polite – you are the only one responsible for your health and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about that. We can’t afford to give control of what we eat to others.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. You are the customer. So if you want your fish steamed instead of fried or your salad dressing or condiments on the side (which you do), just ask your waiter.
- If you think you need a second serving at a banquet, wait 10 minutes and then see if you’re still hungry. You probably will find you aren’t.
- You don’t have to consume everything that you are served. Restaurant servings can be massive. If there are leftovers on your plate or on the share plates, you don’t have to eat them. Ask for a doggy bag if you don’t want it to go to the bin and have it as leftovers for lunch the next day.
- You should try putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Not only will you feel full in less time, you will also find yourself savouring your food more. You should be enjoying food, not inhaling it.