Eating out and low-calorie diets

Pheasants, I need your help.

This weekend is a weekend of greatness: family has come over from Hawaii to visit. Not only that, but my favorite uncle and one of the most amazing men I know is having a birthday. We all know what this means…

Restaurants. And what comes from restaurants, dear pheasants, besides delicious, wonderful, amazing food? Huge portions, enormous caloric values and, unfortunately, all those smells and sitting around. I could eat entire plates at restaurants and still be excited for more. But alas, alack, this cannot be.

With 1300 calories a day and a set max value for cholesterol, sodium (!), fat, etc, eating everything in sight can’t happen. This is why I’ve exhaustively researched and prepared a list of things to watch for at restaurants where the fare might not be…quite as healthy as we’d like. I’ve especially searched for ethnic restaurant tips, because my family loves ethnic food. My father is Chinese and, growing up in Hawaii, both my parents have a massive love for very true-to-their-roots restaurants. So, here are some helpful suggestions to help you get through the evening:

1) Try to stay away from the hardcore carbs that will be on the table.

This is especially true in Asian restaurants (rice, noodles) and Mexican restaurants (those chips…they’re pretty laden with oils and fats.) Even in African restaurants, though, they’ll serve up chapati or injera, and you’ll need to be careful about those.

2) If you’re going to eat the hardcore carbs, try to order something more meat- or vegetable-based than carb-based.

It may sound like common sense to you, but there are a lot of people who won’t think twice about eating a plate stacked with noodles and rice (me.) So, if you love rice as much as I do, or injera, or chips, order an entree that’s more meat- or (even better) vegetable-based. It will keep your carb count low(er) than if you were to, say, go with beans and rice and tortillas, or Pad Thai and rice.

3) Try to steer clear of sauces. (This rule is mostly for Asian restaurants)

Sauces are a lot like juice: tasty and lovely, but they’re heavy with calories that don’t fill you up. If you can, ask for your sweet and sour chicken plain, with the sauce in a bowl on the side. When ordering noodle dishes, ask for half the sauce to be tossed on your noodles and the other half served on the side (or not at all.)

4) If you’re at a Middle Eastern or an Indian restaurant, though…

…load up on their chutneys and dipping sauces! Indian-style (or Middle Eastern) restaurants have great, spicy sauces, which help you to eat less. They’re also flavorful and made with great, natural ingredients that help you feel good. The mint samosa sauce in particular is great for you with loads of the herb, lemon juice and other great, natural flavors. Their chutneys are full of fruits and vegetables too that will add flavor without adding major calories.

5) If you must have it fried, order a large side of (not fried or heavily-cooked) veggies.

If you’re at a Chinese restaurant and you can’t live without your sweet and sour chicken, have the waiter or waitress take the plate and box it up once you’ve taken off one portion. Also, order a large side of steamed vegetables and feel free to indulge. Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce are especially great for flavor and filler when you’re trying to eat well while eating out.

6) Portion control, portion control, portion control.

This is a mindset that you will definitely need to practice and drill into your head, especially when you come from a big family (or a family of big eaters): You will be able to eat more of it later. You need to remember that scarfing it all down right then and there will only bring you pain later, and if you portion it now, you’ll have meals for days. Days, pheasants. It’s a good investment to restrain yourself.

But, most of all, pheasants, remember that you need to enjoy yourself while eating out. Sharing food and sharing culture is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Prepare yourself before you go in, and you won’t have to worry about a thing for the rest of the night (except for what you’ll do with the leftovers, and when!)

Questionable content: 

What tips do you use to keep from overindulging when you go out?

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