You’re motivated. You’re exercising every day. You’re cooking healthy meals at home. You’re watching your portion control. You’re being so good to yourself. You may have noticed some weight loss and an increase in your energy level. There’s just one problem—you really want to eat out tonight. Well then, do it! You deserve a treat.
Don’t know what to order at your favorite restaurants? The following tips can help you navigate the menu like a true health nut. You can eat out and not go overboard if you remember a few simple rules about restaurant fare. I’ve compiled my own list of tried and true tips for dining out at several types of restaurants. Give them a try and let me know what works for you.
Tips for Dining Out While Staying Healthy
Mexican—When that endless basket of tortilla chips appears, I limit myself to ten chips and break them into bite size pieces before dipping them in salsa. I go for grilled entrees like fajitas or grilled fish tacos. Ask for black beans (high fiber, low-cal) over refried beans, which are usually cooked with too much saturated fat. Always avoid beef in Mexican restaurants, as it loaded with fat and calories. Limit the sour cream or skip it altogether.
Italian—You’ll be less inclined to finish your entree if you enjoy a satisfying cup of broth based soup as an appetizer. I like minestrone because it’s loaded with veggies. I always ask for whole wheat pasta in tomato based sauces like marinara or primavera, which are lower in fat and calories than creamy sauces. Avoid alfredo sauce at all costs. It’s filled with artery clogging saturated fat. Thin crust pizza with veggies is a healthy choice, especially if you limit the cheese. Choose plain Italian bread over garlic bread, which can be smothered in butter.
Indian—My favorites are tandoori shrimp, chicken, or fish, as these items are always grilled. Chicken tikka is another tasty grilled option. Healthy side items are curried vegetables, steamed rice, and naan as long as they’re eaten in small portions. Indian food boasts lots of healthy vegetarian options. Just avoid fat laden dishes like coconut soup, korma, and samosas.
Chinese—Chinese food doesn’t have to be a nightmare for those of us watching our calorie and sodium intake. As an appetizer I usually order a cup of won ton soup. I sip the broth, but leave the won ton behind. For any entree, a good rule of thumb is to ask for more veggies than meat. Steamed or stir fried vegetables are always a healthy option. Stick with steamed brown rice, limiting it to a tennis ball sized portion. Avoid anything fried with sticky sweet sauces like Sesame Chicken. Moo Goo Gai Pan is a safe choice with its light sauce and low-cal white meat chicken and veggies.
Japanese—Luckily, many Japanese menu items are light and come in small portions. I like to start with some edamame or a cup of miso soup. Aside from being low in calories and fat, miso has healthy bacteria that aid in digestion. Sushi makes for a filling meal that’s low in calories. If you’re eating rolls, remember to avoid the ones with cream cheese or tempura which up the calorie intake. Opt for brown rice over fried and steamed veggies over tempura. Using your chopsticks will enable you savor your food by eating slower and taking smaller bites.
In the end, remember these basic rules: Make vegetables a priority and treat meat as a side dish. Choose steamed or stir fried vegetables. Choose lean white meats that are grilled or baked. Choose whole grain or brown pasta, bread, and rice. Choose broth based soups and tomato based sauces. Practice portion control by packing half your meal to go before you even start eating.
Now that you’re savvy with the menu, go ahead and take the night off. Bon Appetit!