February 11, 2012

Eating Out




So a couple of you have been sneaky enough to spot me in this month's Cleo magazine. Who knew so many people read Cleo? I must admit though I do like these sorts of magazines to take a quick look at the lastest fashions and (shamefully) a bit of celeb gossip as well.

I was interviewed for the Cleo article some months ago. Of course, all my comments were never going to make the magazine, but that's what I've got a blog for, right? So here's the transcript of my interview with journalist Kathleen Lee-Joe, where I talk about what foods and cuisines are the best choices and how to end the night without having to adjust the buckle on your belt.

When it comes to dieting, is eating out really that bad?

I recommend that people aim to eat out once a fortnight. Eating out can be detrimental to your health if you have it too often and/or make poor choices. The problem with eating out is that you don’t have control over the nutritional value of the meal, or the portion size served. Studies have shown that people tend to finish what’s on their plate, regardless of the portion size. So if you’re served a large portion, even if you don’t finish it all, chances are you’ve eaten a lot more than what you would at home. Even the types of plates that meals are served on in restaurants are deceiving. Larger plates used means that the meal itself looks smaller, so you don’t think you’re eating that much when you really are.



What do you think about when ordering?

Whenever I order I look for a dish that contains lean meat (like chicken, beef or fish), some low GI carbs (like basmati rice, grainy bread or quinoa) and plenty of vegetables. My trick when ordering a main in a restaurant is to always order a side of vegetables or salad. Some restaurants tend to give you only a small amount of vegetables, and ordering a side will help you to feel more satisfied after your meal, without the added calories.



What types of things should you ask your waiter?

Don’t be afraid to ask what certain ingredients are if you’ve never heard of them before. Often high fat items like cheeses or creams are given fancy names, and you may not realise what they are. Also ask how the meat is cooked if the menu doesn’t specify. There’s been occasions when I’ve ordered the fish expecting it to be grilled and it arrives deep fried. Deep frying adds a ton of fat that your body doesn’t need, and these extra calories can easily lead to weight gain. My other tip is that if you’re ordering a salad, always ask for the dressing to be on the side. That way you have the control over how much dressing you’d like. Some creamy dressings are very high in saturated fat and chefs can often be very heavy handed when it comes to dressing salads.



What cuisines do you opt for? What options do they offer?

Asian cuisines like Japanese, Chinese and Thai often provide a number of healthier choices, but there will also be the not-so-healthy choices available. For example, sushi is a healthy, low GI meal choice, but avoid the sushi that contains deep fried meat like the crispy chicken sushi. With sushi often comes soy sauce, which is high in sodium and when consumed regularly may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. So avoid the sauces where possible, and stick to the basics. The traditional Mediterranean diet is also a healthy cuisine to be aware of. Mediterranean meals often contain lean meats, nuts, legumes, olive oil, dairy and plenty of vegetables.





Why is drinking alcohol with your meal bad?

Drinking alcohol with your meal is not bad, as food will help to slow the effects of alcohol. It’s more about how many standard drinks you have a day. It’s recommended that adults have no more than 2 standard drinks a day and 2 alcohol free days a week. This doesn’t mean you can save them all up for a big night on the weekend though. Health benefits with of alcohol consumption have only been shown when alcohol has been consumed in small amounts and in moderation.



How about when you’re eating takeaway? What should we veer towards and what should we steer clear of?

When eating takeaway, the same rules apply. Choose lean meats, avoid deep fried foods, and make sure you ask for plenty of vegetables. Often takeaway places will pile on far too much rice or pasta or noodles, and give you very few vegetables. To avoid this choose a dish that contains plenty of vegetables to begin with. For example, if ordering Thai, instead of ordering a pad thai, order a stir fry instead instead. If you’re not sure, ask for a small serve of steamed vegetables just in case.


So that's it. What's the key message? Apart from vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables, remember that eating at home and cooking from scratch is the best option, as you have the control over what goes into your meals. For those that do eat out every now and then, do you have any healthy tips for us?

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