Lifestyle management specialist Namita Jain tells you how to enjoy your restaurant meal without worrying about calories
One MEAL at a restaurant can easily add up to a day’s requirement of calories if you’re not careful, however, it’s possible to get great food without all the calories if you know exactly what to order. While the trend in Europe is to actually have the calorie count of the dishes on the menu, back home it still hasn’t caught on. But with the number of healthy eaters only rising, Namita Jain, a certified clinical fitness specialist, lifestyle and weight management specialist and health instructor, shares her tips and tricks on how to eat out and stay in control. “Eating out is fun. So treat yourself now and again, without guilt,” she says, adding that it is best to pick a restaurant you know and trust. “You might crave a particular dish. Please go ahead… but be aware of the nutritional value of everything you eat. And instead of finishing it all up, take a ‘doggie bag’ and give it to someone on your way home,” she advises.
When ordering drinks, Jain suggests skipping the carbonated ones in favour of fresh fruit juice, coconut water or buttermilk. Follow it up with salad instead of starters. “Go green! Order a green salad or mixed salad as a first course. Beware of salad dressings, as they are generally made with mayonnaise, cream, peanuts and oil. Choose a yoghurt or honey and mustard dressing instead,” she says. When it comes to soups, vegetable bases are healthier and lower on calories. “Pick a sweet potato, carrot, winter squash or tomato-based lentil or bean soup. In fact, I find a large bowl of soup is extremely filling, but steer clear of cream-based ones,” Jain advises. If you’re at a tempting breakfast loaded with sausages, bacon and cheese, walk over to the desi section for idlis, dosa or uttapa.
“Eat your protein – fish or chicken – the lean way. So that means grilled, broiled, steamed or poached. If everything comes heavily sauced – ask for yours on the side,” she says. And if the chicken breast is meant to be breaded or pan-seared, Jain suggests asking it to be broiled instead. Or if you pick fish, then ask for grilled instead of fried. “Vegetarians, look for tofu, beans, peas, sprouts and a combination of these.” For those who like their partying, make sure you don’t go on an empty stomach. “Eat a small fibre- rich snack before you leave your house. Since at most parties, dinners are served late, avoid eating large quantities of fried party snacks,” says the expert. Tandoori specialities – chicken, fish or even a few cubes of paneer roasted in the tandoor is a healthy option. Roti wraps filled with meat or vegetables make you full but do not pile on calories, Jain shares.
Across the seas
When it comes to global cuisines, Jain suggests customising your meal. “Tortillas with salsa and shredded chicken are a great option. Skip the sour cream in favour of guacamole. Although high in calories, it has several nutrients making it a healthy option,” she says. Even the all-popular pizza is not off limits if you ask for more vegetables or grilled meat on the top and less cheese.
“Asian cuisine is easiest to work with if you eliminate the fried food and carbohydrates – they steam plenty of their food,” Jain explains. So opt for steamed dim sums filled with anything from mixed vegetables, pork, prawn, tofu or crab. “Tuna rolls are a lovely choice. To maximise benefits of sushi, choose fillings that are rich in omega-3s, the unsaturated fats that protect the heart and boost brain power. Salmon and tuna, which are both low-calorie, are also high in protein and give a big dose of vitamin D.”
While it is almost impossible to find a ‘healthy’ dessert, Jain’s advice is to consider a fruity finish instead of chocolate mousse or malai kulfi. “If you are really craving something decadent, share a decadent dessert with others at your table.”
— Aakanksha Devi