Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Time For Cooking

Do you feel like cooking? Nah, me neither. So then what to do about that little monster in your stomach that is grumbling, "Feed me."

Feed him already! When I am too exhausted from work or just have an empty fridge, I like to order in. While there is no debate that cooking for yourself is the best way to eat healthy because you control the ingredients, sometimes that just isn't an option.

So when heating up soup is just too tiring (yes, that actually happens to me), I like to order in. Whenever I eat out, I always figure I’m going to be consuming a few more calories than usual but I also have learned that I can limit the extent of my indulgence and still feel fully indulged. Here’s what I order at a variety of restaurants.

Thai: Go for the wok or stir fry options and forgo the rice. I think Thai places prepare some of the best tofu dishes around, so if are feeling adventurous get tofu in your stir-fry one day. Otherwise, go for chicken or shrimp. Start with steamed dumplings.

Hot and sour soup makes a great first course with a meal of steamed vegetables, the protein of choice, and garlic or brown sauce. You won’t feel like you are eating healthy at all. Again, skip the rice, or eat just a few spoonfuls.

Japanese: Sashimi, sashimi, sashimi! If you don’t like sashimi, have any rolls that doesn’t have tempura or crunchy in the name, plus avoid the spicy stuff. Most places make the spicy sauce with mayo. For an appetizer or starter, miso soup AND a green salad are super healthy and very delicious.

Italian: Oh, how those Italians love their cheeses and olive oil. Here my suggestion is to go for a meat, and not a pasta dish. Avoid, breaded and battered meats, and try out the vegetarian options. Eggplant parmesan will leave you satisfied – it will typically be low in calories but high in fat. A nice trade-off if you are craving Italian. Don’t forget a delicious appetizer of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and olive oil in the summer. Any other time of year, those tomatoes just won’t do the recipe justice.

Mexican: Vegetarian fajitas sans the sour cream but plus the guacamole. For an appetizer, chips and salsa are great as long as you don’t have too many chips. Load the salsa up on those chips and fill up!

Indian: Try chole, a chick-pea curry, Aloo Gobi a delicious cauliflower curry, and anything vegetarian and cream free. Indian food is ooh so yummy but the food available in restaurants is saturated with cream, so here I suggest sticking to vegetarian and dairy free options, and eating the rice sparingly. Finish off your meal with rice pudding or a mango lassi.

American/Diner: Go for the veggie burger if you need to spoil yourself. These are so delicious, full of fiber and protein, and way less in calories than the carnivorous options available. Surprisingly, a BLT is a pretty healthy as long as the mayo is kept in check. A Rueben is a good option as long as you ask for Thousand Island dressing on the side. Try the broth-based soups or a garden salad to start. If you like breakfast anytime of the day, try an egg-white omelet, but hold the cheese please.

Middle-Eastern/Lebanese: I love a good falafel but those little balls of yumminess are fried, so if you must have falafel, go for the platter and forget the pita. Take full advantage of the appetizers and have some hummus (without pita please), any eggplant salad, or one of their delicious vegetable appetizers. Just watch out for tahini…while delicious, it is like an oil, and so it’s best if you can control the amount of it in your food and ask for it on the side.

Greek: Start with dolmas or any one of their salads – just ask for the dressing on the side. Even if you pour the whole dressing on your salad, it’s probably less than they’d add otherwise. Or try the yogurt and dill salad, tzatziki. For a meal, there are so many options just go for the protein based meals and look for words like grilled and sautéed. I personally would mix a few of the side salads together and call that a meal.

The basic point is this: when eating out, avoid carbohydrate based dishes - like pasta or fried rice. They just add so many calories on top of the oil and butter the restaurant industry uses to make its food yummy. Then look out for words that indicate a ton of butter or dairy products are included. Avoid: cream, cheese, battered, breaded, fried and look out for words like roasted, steamed, grilled, poached, and sautéed. Stick with poultry and seafood dishes, and don’t be afraid to inquire about the makings of a dish. Or google the recipe, if you are ordering in, and see what the most common ingredients are in a few dishes.

Most importantly though, if you are eating out, enjoy it and don't stress out about how you've messed up your diet. Instead, what I do is either run a little bit more or eat a little bit less the next day.

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