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YourHealth: Pick the right food when eating out
Farah Diba Khan
To maintain healthy eating habits and to prevent unwanted weight gain, be very careful when eating out.
WHETHER by choice or necessity, there are many occasions when you eat away from home and these occasions will probably present a challenge to your healthy eating programme. But eating is not just about satisfying nutritional needs. It is a major focus of social activities whether it is eating in restaurants with clients or hanging out at hawker centres or mamak stalls with friends or family.
There are ways to enjoy such occasions without losing sight of your long-term healthy eating goals. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; choose lean meats and fish and shellfish; limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and salt; and be careful with the size of your portions.
There is no reason to avoid eating in restaurants, but if you want to maintain healthy eating habits as well as prevent unwanted weight gain, you need to be very careful when ordering.
For this segment, we will focus on restaurant meals. These tend to be higher in calories and saturated fat than meals prepared at home, so to enjoy a meal without sabotaging your weight-control programme, balance restaurant food with lighter meals at home. Do not be afraid to ask how a dish on the menu is prepared — it may be possible to prepare it in a way that is healthier. And if you want to order your main dish without the rich sauce or other high-fat accompaniments, do so. The restaurant is unlikely to refuse your request. Although you have no control over the food served when friends and family invite you over to dinner, you can still limit how much you eat and drink. Fill up on vegetables and lean meat/poultry and fish, less refine carbohydrate and ask for a small portion of dessert.
You can offset any extra calories by taking a walk or visiting the gym during the day. Increasing activity level will help you burn the extra calories you are likely to take in. Exercise increases your metabolic rate and may help you control how much you eat too.
• Choosing healthy options
When you eat out you need a strategy that will enable you to fully enjoy the experience without losing sight of your healthy eating habits.
• Ordering starters
When deciding on a starter, first consider whether you would eat one at home. It might be better to skip the starter, especially if you plan to have a big main dish. Consider ordering a starter and salad as your main meal, or share a starter. Choose low-fat ,high fibre soups such as vegetable or minestrone soup. Avoid smooth, creamy soups. Deep fried starters are high in fat and calories, so they are best avoided. If you have bread, eat it plain, or apply just a thin spread of butter or margarine served. If ordering a salad, ask for the dressing to be served separately. This way you can control the quantity.
• The best main dishes
Use eating out as an opportunity to choose main dishes you might not cook. Gr illed, baked or roast poultry breast, fish and shellfish are the best choices as they are low in fat. Opt for curries with a vegetable or dhall base. Choose entrees with lots of vegetables, water chestnuts or, light stir-fry dishes. Order the smallest portion of meat or share. If you are hungry, order extra vegetables and salad with a light dressing. Opt for tomato-based pasta sauces. Choose soup-based dishes.
• Enjoying desserts
For a healthy refreshing dessert, have a fruit salad, fresh fruits or sherbet to name a few. Avoid desserts with coconut milk, tarts or ice cream as most are high in fat. Avoid fried desserts, pies. Fresh fruits can be a good option. As you can see, eating out does not have to ruin your healthy eating plan. If you splurge once in a while, such as on a favourite dessert, offset the high-fat food by choosing others lower in fat. Use your judgment and don’t be afraid to ask how certain items are prepared.
Low fat eating doesn’t mean you have to give up tasty foods, so savour the flavours!