With the holidays arriving, it can be harder than ever to maintain a healthy and balanced diet when there are so many goodies to choose from. From special holiday menu entrees to decadent desserts, a little indulgence can be a good thing (and well-deserved), but it can also be the start of the downfall of your diet.
While fast-food restaurant menus are largely filled with fried items, the industry has been getting better at recognising the health needs of consumers and are working to build healthier menus. Nearly all chains have now added more nutritional dishes to their menus–if you know where to look for them. Below are a few tips to rely on when it comes to making healthier choices when dining out:
- Make it Your Way
When we’re dining out, we often forget that we don’t necessarily have to order exactly what’s on the menu unless our server suggests some options for substitutions. If there is ever a perfect time to be a more assertive consumer, it’s when you’re dining out. After all, it is YOUR health (and your wallet). Best of all, a majority of restaurants will not charge extra for these substitutions as long as you’re not going overboard.
For example, if an item that you’re interested in is fried, such as chicken or fish, ask for it to be grilled instead. According to LiveStrong, grilling meat is one of the healthier ways of preparing meat as it has little loss of water-soluble vitamins compared to other cooking methods. Grilling is a dry-heat method of cooking that has less added fat compared to frying. If you’re not sure how your dish is prepared, never hesitate to ask.
- Be Menu-Savvy
Now that more and more menus are revealing the calorie count, choosing lighter meals has become a lot easier. Some menus even offer a dedicated section of healthier items. Depending on the kind of restaurant or takeaway that you’re ordering from, you may need to ask how some dishes are prepared if you’re not familiar with the terminology. This also applies to food ordering apps whereby the lists that are generated from your search produce many food options and these establishments can be contacted individually to see how your food is prepared.
Indian food menus, for example, can be confusing to those who have never ordered Indian food before. While many Indian dishes are packed full of vegetables and lean cuts of meat, some menu items may be higher in calories than others, such as Samosas, Padoka, Paneer, Ghee, and Malai. These kinds of items are usually fried and contain high amounts of cheese, butter, and oil–and can be a surprise if you’re not exactly sure of what you’re ordering. Dal and Chole items are made from chickpeas and lentils, which are both rich in fibre and protein.
- Try Double Appetisers
Appetisers can be very helpful in curbing your appetite, but this doesn’t mean you should load up on breadbaskets and mozzarella-stuffed sticks. If the menu has a nice selection of seafood- and vegetable-based appetisers, consider skipping the entree and have a few appetisers to share instead. Plates like hummus served with raw vegetables can be quite delicious and filling too.
If you’re going to order a salad, think twice about the toppings and dressings. Creamy sauces and dressings are usually high in calories. Instead, stick with vinaigrette and request it to be served on the side. This way, you can dip the empty fork in the small side of dressing, then skewer on a forkful of salad. Eating salad with dressing in this fashion will also help you moderate how much dressing is used and your lettuce won’t be prone to wilting in a pool of dressing.
- Make the Better Choice
While many of us are big proponents of the occasional culinary splurge, eating out doesn’t always have to be cited as the primary reason for an unhealthy lifestyle. With just a few substitutions, anyone has the power to turn a 1,200-calorie meal with no nutritional value into a protein-packed, vitamin-rich dish.