Eating out is something we all enjoy and is a big part of our culture. But when your food is prepared for you, using ingredients you don’t always know, how can you choose the healthy option?
Eating out occasionally presents no problems. Eat out more regularly and you need to be careful. Restaurants naturally concentrate on the taste experience and aren’t necessarily concerned with calories. Many dishes can contain too much fat and salt, too many calories and lots of hidden ingredients. Knowing what to look for on a menu can help you get the best out of restaurant dining.
Here’s what you need to look for.
A menu that uses words such as crunchy, tempura, battered, crispy, breaded, crusted, golden and sizzling are usually the least healthy option in a restaurant. Each implies that they are fried and include carbohydrates in the coating. Frying food not only adds calories in the oil used, it also renders many nutrients useless.
Many lower quality restaurants and fast food chains use partially hydrogenated oil because it is cheap and can be reused constantly. Partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fats which are directly linked to elevated LDL cholesterol.
Sugary foods on a restaurant menu may be advertised as Teriyaki, BBQ, glazed, sticky, honey-dipped, dressed, vinaigrette, golden or coated. Many of the sauces used the preparation of these items contain lots of sugar. You will need to ask about these if you’re tempted as not all of them are sugar-laden.
Our bodies need sugar to function but only in small doses. Unused sugar is turned into carbohydrate which is then either burned through exercise or stored as fat.
Menu items that mention loaded, stuffed, creamy, cheesy, gooey, smothered, melted, rich, velvety and other adjectives can mean plenty of calories. These are foods that tick a mental box that values comfort, home and all those warm and fuzzy feelings.
Many dishes that are loaded or stuffed will include oil, cheese or other concoctions that can contain many calories. There are many exceptions in our own Mediterranean diet but you need to be aware.
A dish that includes the words roasted, baked, braised, broiled, poached, rubbed, seared, grilled, steamed, sautéed, spiced or seasoned can indicate a much healthier option.
All describe healthier cooking methods that use little or no fats. Just watch out for dressings or sauces and ask if you’re unsure.
Many restaurants here on Malta offer a wide range of healthy menu options. It’s up to you to find and order them. Hopefully, now that you know what to look for you can enjoy a guilt-free dining experience!