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Rising To The Challenges of Eating Out

Eating out in restaurants and take out spots has become somewhat of a culture, especially in the corporate world. Business lunches during the day and lack of home meal planning at night means that many meals are eaten in restaurants and canteens. A busy lifestyle brings many of us to rely on fast food chains or quick shops for a rushed meal. For the most part, these eating-houses are not as concerned about your health, as they are about the way the food tastes. Eating out can therefore pose a big challenge to anyone trying to follow a balanced diet. It definitely helps to put more effort in and prepare healthy foods at home most of the time. However, for some of us this option is not always available, in which case we need to make the healthiest possible choices when eating out or eating on the run. Here are some suggestions to help you make the best of an often-bad situation.

Useful Tips

· Don’t arrive too hungry. Not eating the whole day and arriving at a restaurant starving will increase your chances of overeating. Eating small, regular meals during the day and having a small snack or some fruit a couple of hours before going out will help ensure that you don’t overdo it.

· Choose the right restaurant. Choosing a restaurant that you know has some healthy choices that you like is always a good idea.

Order small portions. Restaurant portions are generally bigger than the portions we would eat at home and so we end up overeating. Order half portions where possible (especially with pastas), or share the meal with somebody. If you are hungry, add a salad to the meal or a side of vegetables to fill up. You could also try ordering two starters instead of one main meal.

Ditch the bread rolls. The white bread rolls that often arrive before your meal are just unnecessary extra carbohydrate. Rather send them back. But if you must indulge, rather limit yourself to one without added butter.

Order grilled over fried foods. Foods that are fried are generally not a good choice. Rather opt for grilled, baked or stir-fried options.

Avoid creamy sauces. Creamy and cheese sauces as well as buttery sauces are loaded with saturated fats and should be avoided as much as possible. Rather use fresh chilli; lemon and garlic for flavour or choose tomato based sauces instead.

Choose better side dishes. Choose vegetables in season, a salad or a baked potato as a side order instead of chips or onion rings.

Order smart drinks. Stay away from fizzy drinks as much as possible. Choose still or sparkling mineral water as a healthier option. Limit your alcohol intake, but if you are going to be drinking, limit yourself to one or two drinks.

Eating at Specific Restaurants

Steakhouses. Try ordering the fish option, or grilled chicken breasts instead of steak for a lower fat option. Red meat portions in steakhouses are often very hefty, so choose the smallest steaks or the lady’s portion. Lion cuts, like sirloin are usually the leanest. Trim all visible fat off the meat before eating. Avoid the fried chips and opt for vegetables, salads or a baked potato without butter or sour cream. If you’re not all that hungry, just go for a started or salad.

Italian. Pasta portions tend to be quite large, which means you generally overload on the starches. Order smaller portions and avoid cream based sauces and heavy cheeses. Pizza can be ordered with less cheese, or even without cheese and just topped with vegetables. Less starchy options include Carpaccio, veal, minestrone soup or grilled chicken or fish.

Asian. Asian restaurants generally have a wide range of healthier choices. Sushi, miso and clear vegetables soups, stir-fried vegetables with chicken or beef and steamed fish all represent good choices. Avoid spring rolls and deep-fried foods, as these are high in kilojoules.

Indian. Indian curries are exceptionally high in fat, as they are made with butter and cream. Try Tandoori style foods, which are cooked without the addition of fats in a clay pot. Chicken or vegetables tikka are also better options. Avoid overloading on the heavy Nan breads, especially the buttered ones.

Deli-style eating. The best choice when eating at a café or deli is salad. Be careful though not to overload on fat choices. Generally, try including no more than two fattier foods in your salad, choosing from things like, salad dressings, olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, crotons and cheeses. When ordering sandwiches, choose lighter breads like health or rye or wrap bread over bagels, thick ciabattas and focacios and opt for lower fat fillings.

Burger joints. This quintessential take out food can pack quite a punch when it comes to kilojoules and fat but offers very little in terms of good nutrition. Opting for chicken burgers is better, and at least ditch the fried chips.

Chicken take-outs. Fried chicken is one of the highest fat take out options you could choose, so rather opt for flame grilled or rotisserie style chicken. In some chains you can also request that the chicken be cooked without the skin, or you can order plain chicken breasts. Choose rice or salads as a side instead of chips.

Choosing Healthy Beverages

Water. Good old plain water represents your best option for a healthy drink. Drink at least six to weight glasses daily and order water with your meal when you dine out. Tap water will do but for best results invest in a home purification system or purchase bottled prepared, spring or mineral waters. Flavoured and sweetened waters are generally not the best choices because they tend to be loaded with either sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Coffee. Running into your coffee joint for a caffeine fix can turn out to be a diet disaster. Filter coffee or Americano will have virtually no kilojoules, and therefore better than choosing milkier coffees like cappuccinos and lattes. Adding sugar will further bump up the energy value, so use little to no sugar or sweeteners. Herbal teas are good caffeine free options to regular tea and coffee. Try and avoid the temptation of grabbing a chocolate muffin or slice of cake to go with your drink.

Fizzy Drinks. There is really no healthy choice for fizzy drinks, which are either loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, on top of being acidic and devoid of any real nutrition. Plain soda water and sparkling mineral water are better choices.

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