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Eat out, but do it right!

Choose wisely -- Photo: Naveen B.

Choose wisely -- Photo: Naveen B.  

Eating out is inevitable. Either because you have to, or because you want to. But how do you make a fairly healthy choice — you can really eat the cake and have it too!

You’re eating out. Again. Because you love it. Or you’re getting back home late from work, you’re meeting up with old friends, or, you just don’t feel like cooking dinner. Or you want to grab breakfast on the go. Whatever the reason, eating out often and staying healthy, is a fine balancing act. And in a city like Bengaluru where a new restaurant opens around the corner from your home every other week, and all your friends have been to the place where you must go, resisting temptation isn’t exactly easy. Yes, of course Bengaluru has all the food delivery apps you might dream of, but eating out is going nowhere off the menu. You do have to step out of home every now and then, you know!

Ask anybody who does it, and they will have their own formula on how to do it right.

The basic rules of the game are the same. Watch the number of dishes you order, and portion size. Avoid fried foods. Nibble on starters. Skip the main course if you can, and desserts (obviously). Share the food (and the calories!) with whomever you’re eating out with. Pick places that cater healthy food — go to a salad bar, or a health café. Darshinis aren’t bad choices either for a simple hot breakfast of steamed idlis and a bowl of sambaar. Maheima Kapur loves exploring street food (she does it for a living for her website) and has eaten authoritatively through three Indian cities. But when she eats at restaurants, she says she likes to pick those that serve light food. “I prefer places like Infinitea or sandwich places that are lighter on the tummy. Even for north Indian, there are options that serve more home-like food. As far as possible, buffets are a no-no for dinner. Best for brunch or lunch. I prefer picking places that are considerate about the amount of oil they use, without compromising on taste. Recently we ate at Imli, Indira Nagar which is exactly like that. At roll joints, I pick the whole wheat rolls and specifically ask them to use less oil. In fact, at any restaurant, I am fanatic about asking for less oil. Even some of the street food options like momos are quite healthy,” she concludes.

One would think it’s a very woman thing, this fussing so much over food. But you only need to speak to techie Karan Singh.

He’s at the gym every morning and at cool joints in Indiranagar every evening with friends over dinner. A bachelor who only makes himself a quick healthy brekkie before rushing to work, late dinners, invariably are his only indulgence. But doing it everyday, he’s figured a whole lot on how to do it right.

“I usually stick to starters from the tandoor. That way you know it’s not fried. My trainer at the gym has helped me figure out how to get the maximum protein on my plate, even when ordering out. Fish is a great bet for me; low on fat again. Rice is a complete no-no. I try to east Asian or Mediterranean food, because it’s easier to pick healthy options. My friends used to laugh at me initially, but now I think they’re just used to it. It’s not difficult to do it — eat healthy, you know, and still have fun with the guys. I toss in a drink occasionally too.”

Well-known diet, nutrition and wellness consultant in Bengaluru, Sheela Krishnaswamy, says that if you eat one meal outside the home daily, then you need to choose foods that are not oily, sugary, or salty. “A simple meal like a tandoori dish, dal tadka, dry sabji, raita would work well. Another option is a combination of clear soup, a bowl of fruit, egg sandwich. It’s important to ensure that there’s some carbohydrate, some protein, and a vegetable or fruit in the meal.” She reiterates that eating out need not necessarily be bad, provided the meals are clean, nutritious and not heavy. “But more often than not, the meals that are served in cafeterias and restaurants are high in fat and salt,” she admits. “But when you eat in a restaurant, request the chef to make your meal as low in fat, sugar, and salt as possible. Start with a clear soup or salad so that you don’t overeat the main course.”

“I’m very particular about the food I pay for. Firstly, it has to be worth the time, effort and money in our traffic-choked city,” says L.R. Revathi, a content editor at an online firm, who considers herself a gourmet cook at home. “I prefer salads, though not all salads are healthy, thanks to the dressing. I also worry whether the vegetables are washed properly. And I stick to minimally cooked veggies or hot pots and don’t touch rice and wheat dishes. I’m partial to East Asian, Mediterranean and Arab food — all vegetarian. When not doing posh, I’m happiest with idlis in Darshinis. They are light, healthy, and fast. My hell is maida parathas and veggies drowned in oily masalas.”

Vidya Suresh, a French language teacher, admits she’s nowhere near being “healthy”. But she’s making some radical changes this new year — “I went from being ruthlessly non-vegetarian to vegetarian (no eggs either). I went off white sugar. I continue to eat sweets that have jaggery or honey in them and I’ve cut down a lot on coffee and tea. I used to eat out quite a bit but this year I intend to go easy on this. I just enjoy eating out and also being a working woman, it’s always an easier option,” she says. She ends up going to places like Yogisthaan or The Secret Garden Café, “where I'm bound to get healthy stuff. I like the salads in both places,” she declares.

Here’s how to:

* Read the menu carefully – avoid dishes that are very obviously fattening — described as rich, creamy, pan-fried, crispy etc.

* Some restaurant menus also display calorie counts for dishes.

* Steamed dishes are a pretty safe bet; the way your food is cooked will make a difference

* Fill up with soup and salad first sauces

* Opt for grilled or tandoor dishes rather than deep-fried starters

* Always check for alternatives – go for whole grain or wheat instead of maida breads or roti/rolls

* Drink plenty of water; don’t order a drink laden with sugar

* Make sure some veggies and fruits are there in your meal

* Non-vegetarians need to keep an eye out for the red and white meats and the cuts on offer



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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 2:10:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Eat-out-but-do-it-right/article13999430.ece

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