Eating healthily doesn’t mean you can’t go out for a nice meal at your favourite restaurant, but neither does it mean you have to fall off track.
It’s all about making the right food choices when you’re there and Hairy Bikers’ Diet Club is here to help. We will guide you through the dos and don’ts of dining out at some of the most popular culinary cuisines so you know what to pick from the menu to avoid sabotaging all your healthy intentions.
So whether you favour the flavours of Indian, Chinese, Japanese or Italian, here’s how you can become a savvy diner and make the best choices when you eat out.
Good choices at Thai restaurants include clear soups, plain satay skewers, fragrant stir-fries and curries without coconut milk e.g. jungle curry. Dishes such as Pad Thai, meat and fish salads, mixed vegetable stir-fries, steamed rice and tom yum soup are also good options.
Not-so-great choices include deep-fried starters (such as spring rolls or curry puffs), coconut milk–based curries and soups (like Massaman, red and green curries) and anything covered with rich satay sauce.
When eating Chinese clear soups are great options, as are steamed fish/seafood and steamed dumplings or wontons (but specify that you only want them steamed as some restaurants pan-fry them once they’ve been steamed). Other good choices include stir-fries, chow-meins, chicken and fish dishes in chilli, soy or oyster sauce, braised dishes and black bean sauce-based dishes, plus fragrant jasmine tea.
Steer clear of fried dishes, such as fried rice and dim sum, spare ribs, prawn toast, prawn crackers, the crispy skin on Peking duck, sweet and sour pork (the batter is deep-fried), rich satay sauces, lemon chicken and battered dishes.
JAPANESE IS A JOY
Japanese is a great eating out option especially when you choose fresh sushi, sashimi and nori rolls, miso soup, udon noodle soups and yakiatori (grilled chicken skewers), soba (buckwheat) noodles, and sukiyaki (beef, vegetables, tofu and noodles simmered in a pot).
Opt out of fried dishes such as tempura and gyoza.
SPANISH AND MEXICAN FLAVOURS
When eating Spanish or Mexican, choose frijoles (bean) and fresh, tomato-based salsa dips, gazpacho and bean-based soups to start. Good main courses include fish and grilled meats with rice (but watch portion sizes as it’s easy to overdo it), chilli con carne with lots of beans, fajitas/tostada/burrito/enchilada with fish, lean meat, chicken and beans, but ask the waiter to go easy on the cheese and guacamole.
Don’t go for dishes laden with sour cream, fried meats and cheeses, fried tortillas and fried, stuffed potato skins. Nachos are also a no, no.
When ordering Italian pasta dishes, choose tomato-based sauces such as napolitano, arrabiata and marinara but, since portion size is always a killer at Italian restaurants, ask for a starter size. Enjoy with salads flavoured with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and finish with fresh fruit salads and sorbets. If you like pizza go for thin crust with extra vegetables. Ask for only half the cheese and say no to fatty meats such as salami and pepperoni.
It’s best to avoid meat or cream-based pasta sauces, such as carbonara and cheese filled pastas (including lasagne), crumbed dishes, pesto and garlic bread, plus rich desserts, such as tiramisu.
INDULGE IN INDIAN
At Indian restaurants, choose foods cooked in the tandoor (clay oven), seafood, vegetable and lentil dishes, such as dhansak (cooked without coconut milk) or dhal, grilled pappadums and raita. Look for tomato or yoghurt-based sauces without added butter or ghee and enjoy with plain naan, roti/chapatti or steamed rice.
Don’t choose deep-fried starters such as samosa and pakora, butter (makani), cream (korma) or coconut based curries and anything topped with fried onions or oil.
GO FOR GREEK
Simply cooked Greek dishes are best – try tzatziki, stuffed vine leaves and grilled fish and meats, such as souvlaki, and simply-dressed salads and vegetables.
Dont’ indulge in fried cheese, such as saganaki and spanakopita (spinach pie in filo pastry), moussaka, and rich pastry, plus honey-laden sweet dishes, such as baklava.
AS A GENERAL RULE…
- Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side so you’re in control of how much you use.
- Watch the alcohol – a small glass or two is fine, but too much will stack on the calories and weaken your willpower. So, start with water or a diet drink and alternate with alcoholic drinks.
- Ask for skimmed milk with your tea or coffee.
- Opt for grilled fish and meats and ask the waiter not to dress or ‘garnish’ the meat with butter or oil.
- Choose tasty seasonal vegetables or fresh salads instead of chips – chips typically provide the most calories and fat of the meal.
- Finish your meal with fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts and cheeses.
- Say ‘no thanks’ to crumbed or fried foods or those served with creamy or buttery sauces.