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Dining out healthfully

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Dining out healthfully
I eat out a lot. What are some healthful eating tips and menu choices for different kinds of restaurants?

By Liz Pearson
First published in Chatelaine’s October 2002 issue.
© Liz Pearson

Calories, fat and sodium add up quickly when you’re dining out. Here are my tips for healthy restaurant meals:

Greek
Enjoy A small Greek salad and chicken souvlaki (lamb and pork souvlaki are good runner-up choices).
Avoid High-fat and -calorie gyros (meat-stuffed pita), moussaka (ground beef-and-fried eggplant casserole), spanakopita (spinach pie) and dolmades (meat-and-rice-stuffed grape leaves).
Tip For less fat, ask for the feta cheese and dressing on the side and add just a spoonful or two of each to your salad.


Italian
Enjoy A dark green leafy salad or a veggie-and-bean-filled minestrone soup, pasta with tomato or marinara sauce and lots of veggies, a small serving of pasta (about 1 to 2 cups/250 mL to 500 mL) made with an olive oil-based sauce, grilled fish or chicken or a gourmet-style, thin-crust veggie pizza (share it with a friend).
Avoid High-fat dishes such as pasta with creamy sauces and fatty meats (such as sausage), as well as dishes that are heavy on the cheese such as lasagna and parmigiana.
Tip Limit yourself to one piece of bread or better yet, skip it entirely.

Chinese
Enjoy Steamed rice and stir-fried or steamed veggie-filled entr饳 with a serving of lean chicken, beef or shrimp (a serving is the size of a card deck).
Avoid High-sodium wonton soup, high-fat deep-fried foods such as egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork; fried dishes made with egg, such as egg-fried rice and moo shu pork and dishes loaded with nuts such as kung pao chicken.
Tip Use chopsticks. You’ll probably eat less and cut back on the sodium-rich sauces that go with Chinese dishes.

Japanese
Enjoy Just about everything! Japanese cooking highlights rice and vegetables and relies on food preparation methods that, with a few exceptions, require little or no fat or oil.
Avoid High-fat deep-fried vegetable or shrimp tempura. Soy sauce is high in sodium, so use it sparingly.
Tip If you love sushi, choose a well-established Japanese restaurant that you know handles raw fish properly.

Steak and seafood
Enjoy Shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, grilled calamari (not deep-fried) or steamed oysters, baked, broiled, grilled or steamed fish (especially salmon or rainbow trout to get your heart-healthy omega-3 fats) that isn’t smothered in sauce or stuffing, a small filet mignon or sirloin steak. Don’t forget your veggies!
Avoid Higher-fat cuts of meat such as T-bone, rib-eye or prime rib. Limit your intake of swordfish, shark and fresh tuna steaks to lessen your ex-posure to mercury.
Tip Rice pilaf is low in fat but high in sodium. Make lower-sodium choices throughout the rest of the day.

Mexican
Enjoy Black bean soup or ceviche (seafood salad marinated in lime juice), chicken fajitas (go easy on the sour cream and guacamole and load up on the salsa). Runner-up options include small portions of bean or chicken burritos or chicken enchiladas (ask for less cheese in the enchiladas).
Avoid Deep-fried tortilla chips and cheese-laden dishes.
Tip Be wary of refried beans. They’re often mixed with lots of fat and sometimes lard, bacon or cheese. Opt for beans that have not been refried.

Indian
Enjoy Salad and baked bread such as chapati, oven-roasted dishes such as tandoori chicken, grilled dishes such as chicken or beef tikka or dishes that feature lots of vegetables, beans or lentils such as some vegetarian curries.
Avoid Deep-fried foods such as samosas (stuffed and fried vegetable turnovers) and pakoras (deep-fried dough with vegetables), as well as dishes that contain large amounts of ghee (clarified butter) such as chicken makhani.
Tip Order curry prepared without high-fat coconut milk or cream.

Thai
Enjoy Hot-and-sour soup or a fresh (not fried) spring roll, stir-fried dishes such as gai pad khing (ginger chicken), small portions (1 to 2 cups/250 mL to 500 mL) of pad Thai, chicken or shrimp satays (use only a scant amount of peanut sauce).
Avoid Fried spring rolls and dishes made with coconut milk.
Tip When ordering dishes with nuts, ask that no more than a tablespoon or two (15 mL to 30 mL) be added.

Liz Pearson is a registered dietitian, professional speaker and author of When in Doubt, Eat Broccoli! (But Leave Some Room for Chocolate) (Penguin).