Last week was Valentines, I organised a triple date night and I ate a burger… shock horror. I do enjoy a good burger. This burger will not contribute to any extra layers of fat on my body and it won’t affect my health considerably. In fact I could argue that this burger was in one way good for me… controversial!?
That’s me and I’ll tell you my definition of whats ‘good for me’… anyway, how about you?
For you, will eating a burger or a meal with fries or similar heavy, lets say ‘high calorie naughty’ dinner, build on layers of fat and build up that beer belly?
Are you unhealthy, unfit, a little fat or do you eat like this often? If so, then you could follow some of the simple suggestions I’m going you here that hopefully will help you make healthier choices out at restaurants.
HOW ABOUT YOU
Or if you travel for work these suggestions here could be a life saver. Literally.
How can I dare to say a burger is good for me? Firstly this is not a meat vs veggie point I’m making, so park that. I don’t have extra fat to lose, I am fit and I am healthy. We go out once every month or two because we have young kids and instead of restaurants we go for cooked dinners at home or at friends houses. We eat real food and we avoid babysitting cost.
I say it is good for me because it is a occasional treat, I enjoy going out and I enjoy eating a good burger. I enjoy it for various reasons, unfortunately mostly because of a learned cultural norm that I am trapped in (which I admit is a sad state of affairs but I’m yet to meet any human being that isn’t trapped in a very similar way). To repeat, for the purposes of this article I’m ignoring debate about the merits of red meat.
At the end of the day, after a burger and fries my stomach wasn’t happy, especially the following day. It is only very occasionally. I know its not the best thing for my body. Probably I’m still in a transition to a healthier lifestyle that hopefully continues forever. My body knows more now, because I cook healthy food, eat mostly ‘real’ food (not processed), plenty of plants and have a well balanced diet at home with my family.
You want to eat better at a restaurant?
A Nutrition Advisor would always start with a thousand questions to determine a range of appropriate suggestions for an individual, especially the lifestyle and culture of that individual… lets break it down to 3 simple questions with simple answers:
- Are you in need of a lifestyle change to lose fat or to be healthier (not die young)? – YES
- Do you eat out at restaurants and order the burger or other ‘high calorie meal’ (for lack of a more precise description) – YES
- Do you want to change your habits to lose the beer belly or not die young? – YES
Ok, you’ve answered YES to these questions. We can now move onto the suggestions.
I’ll give you some ideas that will help you on the path to a healthier, fitter and less fat life. Like most health related suggestions, it is pretty simple at a high level and I bet you already know intuitively what is good for you.
Suggestions for eating out at night
Assuming you are on a mission to lose fat or simply eat healthy.
Choosing a restaurant
- Look at the menu in advance to pre-decide what you will order (this primes the decision, avoiding potential peer pressure situations).
- When booking ask if the chef can accommodate your requests for healthy food.
- Water. Water. Water or,
- If you need a drink get one – not a high sugar cocktail. Enjoy a beer or wine. Want to go fancy and be healthy, get sparkling (water!).
- Either skip the starter or,
- Order something light ie. NOT deep fried calamari, fried spring rolls or chips. Go for the salad, vegetable or protein based starter.
- Keep it simple and think protein plus steamed vegetables or a salad.
- Replace any fried side with a side of salad or steamed vegetables.
- Look at the salad options, if you think it won’t fill you up you are probably mistaken or add a side of steamed vegetables to the order.
- Pay attention to the sauces that are often high in sugars. Especially if you are ordering a salad, ask to change the sauce or put the sauce on the side.
- Regarding that burger – if you just can’t help yourself and you just have to have one, ask to remove the buns and replace fries with vegetables or salad. Easy.
- Skip the dessert, drink water instead or,
- Ask for fresh fruit (without sugar on top), frozen yoghurt, greek yoghurt, fruit with wine sauce or spices, coffee or,
- If you must order from the menu, share between two or three of you.
None of this is rocket science is it?
Specific Restaurant Guide *
A lot of the sushi rolls can be pretty high in fat, which is not a great idea to combine with a large amount of starchy carbs. Here are some better ideas: sashimi with a side of rice, grilled meats or fish with rice, nigiri sushi, meat and vegetable dishes cooked in broth.
Fresh spring rolls, Pho noodle soup with leaner meats, steamed fish or grilled lean meat plates with rice.
Thai Steak or chicken salad, chicken satay, chicken skewers, grilled fish or shrimp, grilled squid, fresh spring rolls (wrapped in unfried rice paper), grilled or steamed vegetables, side of rice.
Leaner steaks (filet mignon, sirloin), fish, chicken, shellfish cooked dry with a plain baked potato, salad or steamed vegetables.
5. Seafood restaurants
Grilled, baked, or steamed fish, shellfish, fish appetizers (shrimp cocktail without the sauce, ceviche) with a side of rice, plain baked potato, salad or steamed vegetables.
Any steamed, baked, or broiled fish or shellfish, fish/vegetable stew, bbq or broiled chicken or lean steak, kimchee, sprouts, grilled vegetables, vegetable sides, side of rice.
Salads, ginger fish or other fresh fish dishes, chicken dish, tandoori dishes, chicken, lamb, or beef kabob/skewers, side of rice.
Grilled or broiled fishes (salmon, ahi tuna, whitefish, monkfish, etc.), grilled sea scallops or prawns, muscles, salads and vegetable sides, lean meat kabobs/skewers, side of rice.
10. Burger joints
Grilled chicken salad, grilled chicken tenders. Side of salad or steamed vegetables. Do I really need to tell you no fries, onion rings, and shakes?
Grilled chicken, shrimp, steak salads (but not taco salads with the fried shell). Grilled carne asada, chicken, or shrimp plate with salsa and veggies only (no rice, cheese, refried beans, or other condiments), Grilled carne asada, chicken, shrimp fajitas (no cheese, sour cream). And to avoid temptation, tell them you don’t need the chips or tortillas.
10. Chinese Restaurants
Grilled Chinese chicken salad, steamed vegetables, bake/grilled/steamed fish or prawn dishes, vegetable soups. No sweet ‘n’ sour stuff (that’s the definition of high carb plus high fat). No fried dishes.
11. Italian Restaurants
Salmon and other fresh fish dishes, filet mignon, roast chicken, grilled mussels/clams, grilled prawns, grilled calamari, vegetables side dishes, salads, veal or chicken piccata or scaloppini.
12. French Restaurants
Grilled prawns, grilled mussels, oysters, scallops, tuna, grilled chicken, roast chicken, veggie sides, salmon or other fresh fish dishes, salads. Try to do away with all of the heavy cream sauces.
Grilled lamb, chicken, or steak, fresh fish, prawns, scallops, vegetables, salads.
So next time you are at a restaurant I’d love to know how you go.
* the restaurant ideas section is mostly borrowed from a BornFitness doc, which I thought is a nice summary of different restaurant options