There’s not much that can beat a nutritious home-cooked meal. However, you may not always have the time (or patience) to prepare and pack your meals the night before. While outside dining does present its own share of challenges to the health-conscious, good nutrition can still be achieved. It all boils down to keeping a few key guidelines in mind and knowing where/when to apply them.
Be it at hawker centres or mid-tier restaurants, food here tend to come with generous amounts of condiments. As delicious as they may be, they are also a source of additional calories, preservatives and additives. One of the biggest culprits may just be salad dressing – it doesn’t matter how healthy your bowl of greens is. If you simply MUST have something to go with your food, ask for the condiment to be served on the side so that you can control how much you wish to use. “Aside from salads, things like hollandaise sauce on eggs benedict or mayo in burgers can be requested to come separately. In the context of local food, ordering bak chor mee without lard or pork oil can reduce lots of calories without much change in flavour,” says nutritionist Charlotte Mei.
Split your dessert
It’s hard to imagine a complete outside dining experience without some form of sweet treat to cap it all off. Everyone loves their dessert, but that doesn’t mean that restraint has to go out the window every time the cake menu gets passed around. The best way to satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your waistline in check is to offer to share a dessert. If not, ask your server to halve the usual portion instead and pack the remainder up. You can always pass it to a colleague at the office or keep it in the fridge for another day.
Substitute starches with vegetables
The effectiveness of the low-carb approach is well-documented when it comes to improving blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. In Asian societies, rice and noodles tend to be consumed in fairly hefty amounts due to its status as a food staple. Furthermore, their nutritional makeup tends to make overconsumption easy. Try swapping out your starches for fibrous alternatives like cauliflower, baby spinach or microgreens instead. Not only will your glucose levels remain stable, you’ll also get hefty amounts of micronutrients as well.
All-you-can-eat affairs offer tremendous value, but they also subconsciously wheedle you to eat your money’s worth. Certainly, having rows of food laid out in front of you makes it easy to overeat. It doesn’t help that the fare at these spreads are usually calorie-laden crowd favourites. If the occasion calls for it, however, you can make use of the “seated” rule to help control your intake. Once your butt leaves the chair after you’re done eating, you’re DONE eating. Charlotte also recommends buffet-goers to “visualise a pie chart on their plate. Half of it should be filled with vegetables, a quarter with protein (fish, meats, seafood, eggs, cheese, tofu, etc.), and a quarter with carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, naan, bread, etc).”