According to new statistics by Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians are spending 42 per cent of their food budget on eating out, compared to the 12 per cent in 1960.
The main nutritional concern with takeaway food is the serving size and nutritional quality of the meal. Serving sizes are usually much larger than what would customarily be eaten at home and the dishes themselves are often more calorie-laden and higher in sodium.
But if a take-out meal or a night out with your partner is what you really want, then here are the seven golden rules to follow:
- Skip the chips – Don’t order these nasty, deep-fried sides. You don’t need the extra calories and sodium.
- Skip the soft drinks – Order sparkling water, if regular H2O won’t cut the deal.
- Watch the sauce – I always ask them to lay low on the sauce for any dishes that may be sauce-heavy, especially cream sauce.
- Ask for grilled – Or boiled or pan-fried.
- Choose healthy sides – Some ideas: pan-fried haloumi cheese, green leafy salad, or roasted vegetables.
- Check the menu online and pre-plan: Before you leave home, see if there are options that will work in your favour. Don’t just settle for an unhealthy option because you weren’t prepared.
- Never go out hungry: Number one rule for grocery shopping and night outs; it’s a trap.
To give you an idea of what you can and cannot have, when eating out, I’ve categorised cuisines as per what’s good for you and what isn’t.
- Any of the salads: They have about half the amount of fat and much less salt; watch the sauces you pick, though.
- 6-inch sandwich with 6g fat or less: Veggie Delight (207cal, 2.5g fat, 300mg sodium), Oven roasted chicken (307cal, 4.4g fat, 534mg sodium)
- Best Sauces to have: Honey mustard and sweet onion.
- Swap the white bread for multigrain or wholegrain. It will lower the G.I., and add fibre whilst making a minimal difference to calories, fat and salt.
- Beware the sauces. Avoid chipotle, ranch, thousand island, and tomato relish. They are all very high in calories and sodium.
- Interestingly, the wraps were actually less healthy than the sandwiches. For example, the chicken strips wrap has slightly more calories (311), almost double the fat (7.2 g fat), and more sodium than a sandwich (699mg sodium).
Ironically, traditional Mexican food focuses more on fresh seafood, beans and vegetables and is considered very healthy. But the western interpretation of that is what gives it a bad name with all the extra cheese and sauces.
- Have Chicken Enchilada: Enchiladas are usually offered in multiples as part of a combo platter with rice and beans. Share it all with a like-minded friend, and you’ll each enjoy a satisfying, not stupefying portion.
- Swap Hard shell with Soft shell Tacos: Avoid the guacamole and cream cheese when having tacos.
- Pozole: A delicious broth-based soup built around hominy—the fiber-loaded member of the maize family. Most pozoles are also loaded with chile peppers, which impart antioxidant capsaicins, and pork, which adds high-quality protein. This is one of the lighter meals you can order at a Mexican restaurant.
- Ceviche: Served all over Latin America, seviche consists of little more than fresh fish or shrimp marinated with diced vegetables and plenty of lime juice, which serves to “cook” the fish. It’s a low-calorie, protein-rich start to any meal. Just make sure the fish is spanking fresh.
Good and bad example:
Bad: Beef Nachos with cheese and sour cream: 756 cal, 46g fat.
Good: Chicken enchilada with chicken beans cheese: 214 cal, 9.8g fat.
The good thing about Oporto is that you have the option to eat grilled chicken and not deep-fried version available at other fast-food places.
- Otropo double fillet burger with regular chips: 1220 cal, 58.7g fat, 1662mg sodium.
- ¼ chicken and regular chips: 800 cal, 45g fat, 703mg sodium
- Chicken and cheese burger with small fries: 700cal, 34.7g fat, 959 mg sodium
- Grilled chicken strips with small chips: 610 cal, 28.2g fat, 703mg sodium.
- Chicken strips with a salad is the ideal.
Thai cuisine is often abundant in nutritious, fresh vegetables and good proteins such as seafood and chicken. However many thai restaurants cook with way too much oil and sugar in their sauces.
- What to avoid: Anything deep-fried; that means no spring rolls, chicken wings or money bags – and coconut milk-based dishes, as they’re high in saturated fat. Go easy on the satay sauce too.
- Choose this instead: Steamed or grilled meats where possible. Look for dishes made with lime, lemongrass, basil, chilli and seafood.
- Remember: Don’t skip the soup and salad menu as these will be your most nutrient-rich choices. Hot and sour prawn soup and Thai beef salad are some of the healthier options.
- Thai Salad but watch the dressing.
- Stir fry with Ginger and Shallots OR Chilli and Basil OR Garlic and Pepper Sauce.
- Tom Yum OR Tom Jude soups.
According to a 2010 World Health Organization report, the Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the world. And that may be partly due to their diet, which traditionally consists of vegetables, rice, legumes, and fish. Another outstanding feature of the Japanese diet? Their ways of preparing foods: raw, boiled, steamed, and using a wok.
That said, restaurants these days have a way of perverting even the healthiest dishes, drowning them in sodium-packed soy sauce or serving elephant-sized portions.
Miso: Just watch some have high salt content. Miso is made from fermented soybeans, which means that every bowl brings a wholesome serving of isoflavones. These powerful compounds have anticarcinogenic properties, and at least one study shows that they prevent your body from overproducing fat cells.
Edamame: Great to snack on before main meal. Just ask for them unsalted.
Sashimi: high in protein, low in fat, packed with healthy omegas
Seaweed salad: packed with vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-vitamins. It’s also rich in many minerals including iodine, selenium, calcium, fibre and iron.
Avoid: Tempura, too many sushi rolls or Nigiri (empty calories in rice, and the rice soaks up the sodium laced soy sauce), soy sauce (very high in sodium), sake (it can have up to twice as many cals as wine).