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Diet and Nutrition: Tips for Eating Out

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Eating out should be fun!

Eating out for dinner should be an enjoyable experience. Eating delicious food, maybe with a bottle of wine, in good company is something we all look forward to. A lot of health-conscious people worry about the food you get when eating out. How can you protect your coronary arteries and still have a great meal?  Well here are some tips for eating out. 

First and foremost, be sensible. If you don't eat out a lot, and eat healthily at home, don't worry too much about the odd indulgence. Relax and enjoy yourself!

Remember your food groups

A balanced diet is made up of foods from five groups:
1. Cereals and starchy foods
2. Fruits and vegetables
3. Milk and dairy products
4. Meat and high protein foods
5. Fatty and sugary foods

The first group includes things like bread, rice, pasta, muesli, porridge and potatoes. About one third of your diet should come from this group. Another third should come from the second group. Getting a good variety or fruits and vegetables is important. Eating the same thing every day isn’t as healthy as getting a wide variety. Groups 3 and 4 should make up most of the remainder of your diet. Dairy gives you calcium and some protein, so don't cut it out altogether. The same rule applies to meat and high protein foods. A lot of red meats have high amounts of saturated fat. Make sure you eat lean cuts. Try to avoid foods from group 5 except on special occasions.

Eating out: practical tips

When you're waiting for your food, if bread is offered eat it but avoid the butter. For a starter order something light like a melon or other fruit. Seafood is fine too, but not if it's covered in a fatty sauce. Ask for the sauce on the side and dip sparingly. For the main course, try to stick with grilled fish, chicken or turkey. Avoid fatty meats and get sauces on the side. Restaurant sauces are often crammed full of saturated fat.

Don't make the common mistake of thinking that vegetarian options are always healthy. If it's made with coconut or palm oil that will bump up the saturated fatty acid content. When it comes to vegetables, try to eat lots but keep an eye out for those sautéed in butter or oil. Go for boiled or baked potatoes over chips, roast or sautéed potatoes.

Salad is great but the devil is in the sauce or dressing. Creamy, rich salad dressing is crammed with saturated fat, stick to balsamic and a little olive oil. Ask to have it on the side and use sparingly.

Mediterranean food has a well-justified reputation for being healthy. But, unless you're actually in Italy or Greece – beware! Anglicized Mediterranean food often isn’t as healthy as the real thing. Ask the waiter how it's been prepared and which oil has been used.

Asian and Indian food

With Asian cuisine, keep an eye on oil content. Dishes that are lightly stir-fried are usually pretty healthy but watch out for deep-fried things like spring rolls, poppadoms and samosas.

Eat lots of rice, vegetables, chicken and seafood. Avoid lamb and pork because they are higher in fat than other meats.

Indian food can be very fatty due to the use of Ghee, which is like super-high-fat butter. Food dry-cooked in the Tandoor oven usually has lower-fat content than dishes that come with rich sauces. That means eating Chicken Tikka rather than Chikka Tikka Masala. If you do like saucy Indian food – try choosing one with a tomato-based sauce like Vindaloo or Jalfrezi. Kormas are made with coconut, cream and nuts – all full of saturated fats.

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