The dos and don’ts of dining out
Here’s your cheat sheet to dining out
Restaurant and take-away meals can still be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating plan, especially if they are only consumed every now and then, and in smaller serves. But you don’t need me to tell you that you are better off opting for foods that are higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat and salt. And I’m sure you know to always include lots of veggies, right? Anyway, here are some pointers on what to order when tucking in at the following types of restaurants.
Do it: The options here are endless. Sashimi, miso soup, brown rice sushi, grilled fish/meat, edamame beans, okonomiyaki (just forgo the lashings of mayo) and miso eggplant are all solid options.
Avoid it: Tempura anything – especially with the accompaniment of wasabi mayonnaise, and anything deep-fried.
Do it: You can’t go past a hearty Pho with loads of vegetables and lean meat or tofu. Other options include vermicelli salads (Bun), rice paper rolls and veggie-laden stir-fries. Also, choose brown rice where possible to get a boost of fibre.
Avoid it: Pad Thai can vary a lot, but often contain way too much fat to be put in the ‘Do it’ column. Also, be aware of sauces that are high in oil and sugar.
Do it: Minestrone soup, pasta with tomato-based sauces (just go easy on the parmesan cheese) and thin-crust pizzas with lean meat. Remember – not too much cheese and loads of veggies. Also, always include a side serve of veggies/salad so you don’t just fill up on pizza or pasta. Grilled meats and fish are also great options when dining Italian.
Avoid it: Creamy-based pasta dishes (sorry Carbonara fans) and thick-crusted-extra-cheesy-and-processed-meat pizza, not to mention the starter of garlic and herb bread!
Do it: Lean cuts of meat, BBQ’d fish, a selection of seafood, tomato or wine-based risottos.
Avoid it: Bangers and mash, greasy hamburgers, plus anything deep-fried – that means no schnitzels, parmas, fried fish and chips or fisherman’s baskets. And if you want some chips on the side, share them with your dinner companions.
Do it: Lean stir-fried meat in a light sauce, steamed fish, hot pot.
Avoid it: Spring rolls, dim sims (deep-fried or steamed), crispy chicken, kung pao chicken, stodgy stir-fries and deep-fried meats and seafood.
Do it: Houmus, baba ghanoush (just ask for no added oil), peasant salad, tabbouleh, lentil soup, chicken/beef shwarma, shish kebab, tabouli and tagines. Add some labneh to that list too.
Avoid it: Moussaka, kibbeh and fatty cuts of lamb/chicken. Best to limit the falafel too – they are deep-fried after all.
Helpful tips when dining out
- Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications – most restaurants are only too happy to oblige.
- Give yourself at least 10 minutes between serves before deciding to launch into seconds.
- Try putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls – there’s no benefit in wolfing down your meals. It’s not a race!
- Order a side salad or vegetables with your meals – they’re a great filler.
- Remember that just because you’ve paid for it and just because it’s been placed in front of you, you don’t have to finish it. It’s OK to leave some food on your plate. Know your limitations. You won’t be a happy camper if you’re forced to roll out the door because you’ve eaten too much.
With all that in mind, the best piece of advice I can give is, enjoy the experience. I bet it’s not every day that you’re wined and dined. Make the most of it. Bon appétit.