Dining out is not an excuse for sabotaging your diet. Plan ahead and avoid weight gain by following these simple tips:
1. “Undress” your food—order simple foods without sauce. It’s hard to tell what is in certain dishes, especially those that combine a lot of ingredients. Most calories and fat are “hidden” so you don’t know what you’re getting.
2. Get food “as you want it” (special order)—ask for special preparations or for the elimination, substitution, or addition of specific ingredients
3. Order sauce and dressing on the side—you can control the amount while still enjoying the taste
4. Watch restaurant portion size—restaurant portions are often double the quantity you need. You can divide your meal before you start eating and decide how much you are going to eat in the restaurant and how much you are going to take home. Avoid combo meals that are often super-sized in portion and calories Check out the list of appetizers or order appetizer portions of an entrée.
5. Start with soup or salad—start lunch or dinner with clear vegetable soup, or bulky leafy salad with vinegar-based dressings before eating your entrée. You will eat up less of your main dish. These foods contain a lot of water and fiber, which help you feel full and curb your hunger.
6. Choose calorie-free beverages such as water with a slice of lemon/lime, mineral water, club soda, or unsweetened iced tea. Fruit juice contains just as many calories as regular soft drinks/soda. It may be healthier to switch from drinking soda to fruit juice because it contains vitamins and minerals. However, fruit juice doesn’t contain fewer calories than soda so don’t expect the change to cause a weight loss.
7. If you MUST have dessert, SKIP STARCHY CARBS—bread, rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes—during mealtime. Have a plate of sautéed vegetables with your protein (meat).
8. Quit the clean plate club - Yes, people are starving and dying from hunger, but more and more people are also dying every day from obesity-related diseases. You have an obligation to yourself first. Choose your usual food and drinks and try having only 80% of your serving. Leave the rest on your plate or in your glass. You’ll automatically cut calories, which could translate into a loss of several pounds a year, all without depriving yourself of the things you love. Pack the set-aside portions and have it as a snack or give it away if you must.
9. Eat mindfully—pay attention to what you eat, savor each bite and eat until you are NOT quite full. Mindful eating makes you feel more satisfied by prolonging the pleasure while you digest your food well.
10. Select healthier menu items. Here are some tips to the best and worst options to help you navigate your way through different types of cuisines:
- Look for antipasto choices in herb or marinara sauces. Steer clear of deep-fried mozzarella or calamari
- Pasta is a risky meal to order in a restaurant. It’s best to order half portions or appetizer portions. Avoid dishes with cream sauce. A serving of cooked pasta is just one-half cup, about 32 strands of spaghetti, or the amount that fits in an ice cream scoop.
- Pick pasta with tomato based sauces: marinara, primavera, Bolognese, or red clam sauce. Choose angel hair, spaghetti, linguini, fusilli, fettuccini, or ziti and limit the stuffed variety—ravioli, cannelloni, manicotti—because these are usually packed with high-fat cream or cheese.
- Change side dishes to vegetables instead of pasta or potatoes.
- Create dishes built around vegetables, seafood, or grilled chicken that don’t come with cheese or cream sauce.
- Limit the unlimited supply of bread or better yet, ask the waiter to remove them from the table. Fill up on salad but hold the cheese and get the dressing on the side.
- Risotto is prepared with lots of butter, cheese, or sausage—all high in fat, cholesterol and calories. If you must have it, choose dishes heavy on spices and vegetables such as risotto with spinach and mushrooms or risotto primavera.
Green Flag Words: grilled chicken, fish or seafood, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato-based sauces—marinara, Bolognese, cacciatore, primavera (without cream), artichoke, capers, herbs & spices
Red Flag Words: Pancetta or bacon, cold cuts—prosciutto, salami, bologna, alfredo, carbonara, saltimbocca, parmigiana, stuffed with cheese, creamy sauces, fried or deep fried, manicotti, lasagna, cannelloni
Japanese food is one of the healthiest cuisines—heavy on vegetables and complex carbohydrates, light on meats, dairy, and fats. Food preparation techniques minimize fat, while portion sizes are relatively small. With the exception of tempura, katsu, and agemono, Japanese foods are rarely fried. The Japanese use healthy cooking techniques such as braising, broiling, grilling, steaming and foods are commonly served pickled or raw. The biggest drawback is in the use of high-sodium sauces and seasonings, but a few simple choices will deliver healthier alternatives:
- Meat or fish prepared teriyaki style is soaked in high-sodium sauce. Instead, try shabu-shabu—you can control the amount of sodium because cooking is done table-side and sauce is served on the side
- Order steamed dishes, sushi or sashimi, then limit the soy sauce in the wasabi-soy dipping mix or enjoy with pickled ginger
Green Flag Words: soba noodles, steamed, sauteed, braised, simmered, pickled, broiled (yaki), grilled (yakimono), nabemono (one pot meals) sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, yosenabe
Red Flag Words: Tempura, agemono, katsu, pan-fried, deep fried, breaded, teriyaki, miso (high sodium)
A Chinese meal can range from healthy to total nutritional disaster. The biggest problem is fat—primarily from deep or stir-frying. Avoid items prepared crispy or golden brown. Limit duck and high fat cuts of pork and beef such as spareribs. Many Chinese dishes also contain high-sodium sauces: soy, oyster, black bean, and hoisin. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is often used to enhance flavor. To limit sodium, choose dishes with a lighter sauce both in color and texture. Stay away from thick and dark sauces such as black bean or hoisin. Soups can be loaded with sodium so choose steamed appetizers instead. Most Chinese entrees are prepared to order so special requests to limit sodium and fat are often accommodated. Request to use less oil in cooking, hold the MSG, substitute chicken for duck in dishes, use little or no peanuts and cashews to garnish.
Green Flag Words: Tofu or bean curd, roast pork, lobster sauce, simmered or braised, steamed, stir-fried with vegetables
Red Flag Words: Deep-fried, battered or breaded, crispy, duck, oyster, hoisin or black bean sauce (request to limit amounts)
Opt for no-frills, regular, single-patty hamburger without mayo or cheese. Complement with an order of garden salad with light dressing. Avoid double-patty burgers with cheese, mayo, special sauces or bacon
- Order a kiddie meal—the serving and portion sizes are just right.
- Avoid anything with the words super-size, extreme, double, jumbo, large or extra large.
- Split a small order of fries. You need only a few to satisfy your taste.o Avoid more-food-for-less-money specials.
Pizza is a matter of choosing what’s on top, how deep, and how much.
- Limit toppings to four max. Refer to green and red flag toppings chart to separate the healthy from the unhealthy choices.
- Avoid medium and deep-dish crusts. “Thinner is slimmer” is the rule of thumb in choosing pizza crusts.
Green Flag Toppings: Part-skim mozzarella cheese, green/red peppers, onions, garlic, herbs and spices, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, pineapple, grilled chicken, eggplant, salsa
Red Flag Toppings: Extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, anchovies, bacon, meatballs, prosciutto
Coffee shops are a major, often hidden, source of fat and calories. A medium-size regular black coffee has about 10 calories and 0 grams of sugar but gourmet coffees such as lattes, café mochas, and Frapuccinos prepared with milk, cream, fat, sugar, and syrup have more calories and saturated fat than super-sized fast-food meals!
- Treat specialty coffee drinks as dessert—fancy coffee drinks should be treated like a slice of cake—a rare indulgence and not as a beverage you should consume on a daily basis.
- Order plain coffee and add the extras yourself. Get black coffee and add in moderate amounts of skim milk, sugar, and flavorings like ground chocolate or cinnamon.
- If you must order gourmet coffee, order those made with milk, like a cappuccino or latte, and ask that they be made with low or non-fat milk.
- Skip the whipped cream and save about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. Switch to skim milk instead of cream and cut around 50 calories depending on the size of drink.
- Order the smallest size available.
- Pick the “light” versions of your favorite specialty drinks whenever available.
- Educate yourself. Many specialty coffee shops now offer the nutritional content of their drinks. Ask the barista for this information or go online and visit their web sites.
Described as the "fairy godmother of flat bellies," if there's anyone who can help you get back into shape, it's this US-trained nutritionist. Our guest editor for January, Nadine Tengco, who still slays in a bikini (check out her Instagram for proof), takes care of heavenly bodies like Anne Curtis, Jessy Mendiola, and Agot Isidro and is the author of Sexy at Any Age.