Most people will tell you that while you're struggling to keep up with that monotonous diet plan, dining out is like a sin and how easily restaurants can kill your diet dreams. Here's what I feel, it's good to take away the unhealthiness from food but certainly not the excitement. So if you are an adventurous foodie who likes to eat out but is held back by your demonic diet, then step this way. You can now have the best of both worlds and the rules are simple.
We've dished up 15 top tips for eating out while you're trying to keep your weight down -
1) Cut back on your salt intake: Salt works like magic in restaurants and is used rather generously to enhance the flavor. Make sure you go for low sodium options. Limit the use of condiments like ketchup, mustard and processed sauces as they are secretly stuffed with salt. Salsa or freshly made sauces are a better bet.
2) Cooking technique: Opt for dishes that involve healthy cooking techniques like steaming, grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, poaching or stir-fries. Avoid deep fried spring rolls or fried fish or chicken or for that matter batter fried fritters and appetisers.
3) Plan your day: If you have plans of eating out make sure you balance your calories the rest of the day. Preparation is the key here. If you walk into a restaurant blank you'll find yourself drawn to the creamy and the gooey, simply put fatty foods.
4) While ordering salads, avoid dressings with mayonnaise, cheese, sour cream and go for fresh, lightly dressed servings with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
5) Moderate alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol can lead to over eating. That's a reason enough to slap your hand that slyly crawls towards another glass.
6) Choosing a restaurant: Avoid buffets and 'all-you-can-eat' places. Most diets that go here never come back alive. What's worse is that you'll not only see your diet fly right out of the window but also pile on a few unhealthy pounds.
In scientific literature they'll tell you, it's all in the mind. At buffets you end up feeding yourself much more than your regular routine. Avoid restaurants with menus where you'll be forced to choose between two fried or fatty devils (fast food joints, entertainment cafes etc.) Do a deep dive on the menu, ingredients, cuisine and then pick a restaurant.
7) Seating: Park yourself miles away from the kitchen. For a reason as simple as - not to get tempted by the aroma and the parade of palatable platters that swing by you. While this may have made you burst into a giggle, let me assure you, it does work!
8) Don't starve yourself while eating out as this may lead to unstoppable cravings later. Sketch out a calorie budget and stick to it. Also, don't leave the house hungry; grab a quick snack about an hour before leaving. It's definitely not a good idea to step into a restaurant when you are at your hungriest!
9) Freebies: Don't you get coaxed by the complimentary bread basket. Remember, there's no such thing as a free (healthy) lunch! Keep away from crackers, potato wedges, coleslaw or other complimentary sides; you'll be skipping a lot of unnecessary junk.
10) Drinks: Order something to sip on - maybe a fresh juice or drink. It's fascinating to know that sometimes your body confuses hunger with thirst.
11) Avoid ordering gravy dishes, that's where the fatty culprits like butter, oil, cornflour, cream etc. reside. Tomato based gravies could be a better option. Try ordering first so that you are not swayed by what others order.
12) For the committed carnivores: Know your fats and proteins. White meat like fish and poultry is fairly lean and much healthier then the red stuff. Go for de-skinned meat as it is the skin that contains most fat. Different cuts of meat contain different calories and fats. Boneless, skinless chicken wings and breasts are a good option. They contain lesser calories that red meat cuts like legs and thighs.
13) Serving size: Order small portions to begin with. Give yourself a little break before you go in for round two. In fact, you don't have to necessarily polish off what you have been served, eat till you feel satisfied not stuffed!14) To ease your aching sweet tooth: Death by a dessert is most common for diets. Here is where you have to be very smart. Things to avoid - whipped cream, syrups, frosted pastries etc. Keep an eye on the sugar content. Sorbets, parfait or desserts with fresh fruits could be a good choice. The key here is not to get carried away and know when to place your spoon down!
15) And finally, leave the guilt at home! With a bag full of these handy tips, be rest assured, you won't be held hostage at restaurants.
It's only all the mindless munching that busts your diet; put in some thought into what and how you eat and you'll find yourself championing your routine.