We’re eating out more than ever today. But if we choose wisely and eat small portions, we needn’t worry about unhealthy cholesterol and unsightly bulges. Sharing some tips that I find useful:
At a Mexican restaurant: Choose bean burritos instead of cheese/beef ones. Ask for soft tacos—the crispy ones are deep fried. Black beans are very nutritious, but refried beans are often cooked with fat. Enjoy salsa—it’s mineral-rich and good for you, without the calories. Sour cream, cheese topping and large helpings of guacamole are all high in calories. Buffets work well, allowing you to fill up on greens, corn, beans and salsa; all of which are low-fat, high-benefit choices.
At a Chinese eatery: Learn to eat with chopsticks—they help you eat less, savor your food and cut back on your oil intake. Ditch the deep-fried spring rolls, go with steamed dim sum. Enjoy clear soup—it’s lower in calories than the gloppy ‘cream of’ options. Avoid crispy noodles and deep-fried tofu. Also steer clear of veggies/meat floating in thick sauce made from cornstarch. While fried rice is tempting, I find that steamed rice works as a perfect foil to those flavorful Chinese dishes.
In an Indian restaurant: a tricky one! I’ve been to very few Indian restaurants that are confident enough to serve authentic and delicious dishes without smothering them in oil, cream, and cashew nut paste. Having said that, I recommend choosing yellow dal over black dal, which is simmered in bucketloads of butter, ghee, and cream. Ask for ‘kachumber’ salad, which is basically finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onion, tossed up with lemon juice and cilantro leaves. Tandoori bread and kababs are way healthier than butter chicken. Seasonal vegetables, lightly spiced, are delicious as well as nourishing. Stay away from anything that is named ‘makhni,’ which translates to ‘buttery.’
At the Trattoria: Try a broth-based soup such as minestrone, pasta in marinara, primavera or pesto sauce, and sauteed spinach. Bruschetta, lightly brushed with olive oil, is also a must-have, because it takes the edge off your appetite. White, creamy sauces are a no-no. Pasta tossed up with lots of veggies, garlic and olive oil are yummy, and a healthy choice—better still if the pasta is whole wheat.