By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
In the last issue we looked at some general guidelines for understanding how to order, what to look for, and how to be a more aware restaurateur. Now, let’s take a look at some specific types of cuisine and offer some healthier suggestions while still being convenient, delicious, and satisfying.
At the mall with friends
The mall can cause mayhem on good intentions, financially and nutritionally speaking. Free samples, large portions, and fast-food convenience magnified in one spot can be tempting, but keeping it simple and low key is the way to go.
Choose simple and small items like a single slice of veggie pizza, a baked potato with butter and sour cream on the side, a bean burrito, a side salad, or a small container of frozen yogurt without the candy toppings.
The Today Show’s nutrition and health expert, Joy Bauer, R.D. calls Chinese food a “nutritional nightmare.” Indeed, it can be if one is unaware of the ingredients and preparation methods. Orange-peel chicken, beef and broccoli, Kung Pao chicken, and sweet and sour pork can be upwards of 900 calories and 28-45g of fat! That is more fat in one meal than some people need in an entire day. Opt for steamed vegetables, sauces on the side, and grilled or lightly sautéed chicken, shrimp, or beef. Ask how they prepare it and what sauces they use. Remember to separate your meal in half and refrigerate the rest for another meal.
Mexican food prepared in America can be quite different compared to traditional Mexican cuisine, same with Chinese and Italian, and quite unhealthy. Refried beans, deep fried tortilla chips, vegetables sautéed heavily in oil, and high fructose corn syrup laden margaritas can be a combination for a good time or some digestive discomfort and sodium and calorie overload. There are definitely healthier options.
Ask your server if they have black beans as a side with the rice, can bake some tortilla shells as the chips, or can go light on the sautéing oil. If you can handle it hot, ask them to add chili peppers or hot spice to rev up your metabolism. Enjoy their homemade salsa with a small amount of guacamole. Request a little extra shredded lettuce and pico de gallo for your fajitas and you will up your vegetable intake and steer clear of unnecessary fat and calories while filling up with goodness.
Pizza and pasta dishes can be a healthy and satisfying combination for complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The key is moderation and quality ingredients. Ask for whole wheat pasta when you can and extra vegetables. Choose red sauces; the tomato in the sauce contains lycopene, an antioxidant that aids in improving eye health, cardiovascular disease, and may stave off some forms of cancer. Keep bread consumption to a minimum as pasta is rich in carbohydrates and if the body gets too much at one time it stores the excess as fat.
For pizza, choose whole grain, whole wheat or thin crust if you can. Load with as many veggies as you can tolerate and ask them to go light on the cheese. Give your taste buds and metabolism a kick by adding crushed red pepper flakes and try to add a side salad to your meal so that two slices can easily be a stopping point.
There are many other types of cuisine to enjoy in the area including American, Thai, Indian, Japanese, and Mediterranean just to name a few. The same principles and guidelines can be followed at these establishments as well. Hopefully by being an informed consumer, you can be a happier and healthier individual. If you need more specific tips, direction, resources or suggestions, schedule a visit with a registered dietitian (RDN) nutritionist who can help teach you about nutrition whatever the flavor of the day is! Bon appetit!
Accessed January 10, 2012
Bauer, J. RD. Delivery Disasters. Fitness Magazine. January 2012.