Whether you’re eating at a Mexican or Italian restaurant, you can savor the exotic, while keeping calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium under control.
Look for: Stir-fried (ask to have it prepared in little or no oil) or steamed dishes with lots of vegetables, steamed rice, poached fish, and hot and sour soups.
Avoid: Fatty spareribs, fried wontons, egg rolls, shrimp toast and fried rice. To limit sodium, ask that your food be prepared without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Request soy sauce (high in sodium) and other sauces on the side.
Look for: Steamed shellfish, roasted poultry, salad with dressing on the side, and sauces with a wine or tomato base, such as bordelaise or à la Provençal.
Avoid: French onion soup (high in sodium; high in fat if it has cheese), high-fat sauces (béchamel, hollandaise and béarnaise), croissants and pâte.
Look for: Plaki (fish cooked with tomatoes, onions and garlic), chicken kebabs (chicken broiled on a spit with tomatoes, onion and peppers), or a Greek salad.
Avoid: Dishes with large amounts of butter or oil, such as baba ghanouj (eggplant appetizer) and baklava (dessert made with phyllo dough, butter, nuts and honey). To limit sodium, avoid olives, anchovies, and feta cheese.
Look for: Marinara (tomatoes with garlic and onions), Marsala (based in wine), clam sauce and pasta primavera with fresh vegetables and a small amount of oil. Simply prepared fish and chicken dishes also are good choices.
Avoid: Pasta stuffed with cheese or fatty meat and dishes with cream or butter sauces. Veal scaloppine and parmigiana (cooked with Parmesan cheese) contain added fat.
Look for: Steamed rice, soba or udon noodles, yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), yakitori (chicken teriyaki), shumai (steamed dumplings), tofu, sukiyaki, kayaku gohan (vegetables and rice).
Avoid: Shrimp or vegetable tempura, chicken katsu, tonkatsu (fried pork), shrimp agemono, fried tofu (bean curd).
Look for: Grilled fish, shrimp and chicken with salsa made of tomato, chilies and onion. Order corn tortillas (they’re lower in fat and calories than are flour tortillas) as long as they aren’t deep fried. For a side dish, order rice or beans (black, pinto, refried). Make sure your side dishes aren’t cooked with fat or lard—ask your server about this.
Avoid: Dishes with large amounts of cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Chips also can add a lot of fat and calories.
By the weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic for Not Just the Kitchen