A friend of mine who is just 48 had a mild heart attack and was resigned to a change of lifestyle. He sounded very morose when I called him. An air of melancholy was hanging around him as he spoke. I dug further and found that he had assumed that eating healthy translated into never eating out or participating in a social feast. True that conscious lifestyle change is a major part of healthy living but it so does not mean leading an ascetic or spartan life!
Dining out is an in-thing today. With a rapidly changing lifestyle, we didn't even realize the significance of eating out in our life till corona caused a sudden break on it.
We all have searched google for "eat out near me" over and above our regular dine outs. It is a norm to look for variety and crave different experiences every time. However, it is high time we start looking into how does "eating out at the nearest eat out affect my health" too.
We all know and realize that whatever we ingest as food and drink play a vital role in our health. It is obvious that if eating out is forming a substantial form of our intake then that too must be watched just as we watch our diet at home.
I was pondering over how we used to share our tiffin Dabba and how even picnicking meant special dabba's from our homes. Nowadays it is more of takeaways and dine-in nowadays. Hot chocolate has replaced our traditional "nimbu pani" and White mint Chocolates tantalize us rather than pudina-imli candies! Assorted chocolates have replaced dried fruit treats. Traditionally the Indian household reveres homemade food with a very prevalent "Dabba" system. However, the pressures of everyday life and changing environment is slowing but surely taking over the traditional "tiffin boxes".
There is no doubt that vegetarian food is the best option. Though many know that red meat is bad for health, a huge population is under the impression that bird meat like chicken or battered chicken is a better choice than beef bowl and corn beef hash! Even the lean meat like chicken breast or chicken tenders, diced chicken cooked without oil is bad for health. Be it Chicken broth or chicken with sesame seeds, animal product is not good for the health.
Eating healthy need not mean complete abstaining from eating out. It simply means more conscious eating. Here are a few tips that can help you to eat healthy even outside.
Remember ordering food is a choice!
A hearty morning meal is always recommended. But a complete meal includes all the wholesomeness of the food. Be it catering services or family gathering food distributors give what the service demands. When we order food we need to remember that there are things we need to avoid and the things which we need to include.
It is always advisable to go for
- Vegetarian food: Apart from the fact that meat and seafood are unhealthy in general, they also tend to rot sooner. Lemon juice laced with fresh ginger can make a tangy drink
- Low spiced food: Ask for lesser species as the high amount of spices possess such strong flavours that it becomes difficult to find if the food is stale.
- Less cooked food: Vegetarian food spell vegetables which in turn contain Lignans, which helps in lowering the risk of heart diseases, menopausal symptoms and even breast cancer. But the inherent goodness is reduced or lost if cooked too hard or if ingredients like oil or sugar are added. We will have to consciously avoid oil, sugar, processed food and animal products including eggs.
Oil aids in building up bad cholesterol and causes many coronary ailments apart from an increased risk of diabetes and blood pressure. You use oil to get a crunchy and crispy layer by deep-frying or even shallow frying. But this not only strips the vegetables and the legumes of all its good but also turns good healthy wholesome food into an unhealthy one. Frying increases the calories in the food and the hydrogenated oils which are often used in restaurants end up raising the LDL cholesterol levels, lowering the HDL cholesterol and adding on few pounds to you on the go!
It is common knowledge that in restaurants, especially in India, oil is reused. Heat breaks down the Hydrogenated oil and changes the composition. This in turn causes it to be absorbed more into the food and perpetuate its harmful effects further into our body. The effectiveness of tissue sopping gets lesser and lesser with each usage of the oil.
We could order healthy by
- Going for vegetable salads for appetizers instead of the normal deep fried ones.
- Avoid the many deep-fried options masquerading as appetizers.
- The restaurants also serve up free accompaniments like mayonnaise which is nothing but oil and fat along with the starters. Go for black bean sauce.
- It is advisable to go for grilled vegetables like mushrooms or gobi if salads don't appeal.
- For the main course, avoid the attractively appetising deep coloured gravies as most of them contain copious amounts of butter and cream. Avoid white rice and Jasmine rice too.
- Also, be aware that many varieties from the roti-basket are made of maida which is very bad for health.
- Specify whole wheat bread and opt for cereals like millets.
- Dal or lentils in any form is healthy and opt for the "without tadka" option.
- Yoghurt made of soya or almond milk might not be available everywhere but nowadays, vegetarian dine-in often do offer it. If available go for it.
- Chole (chickpeas) or rajma (kidney beans) or lobiya (black-eyed peas)— are the few most popular legumes which will go well with staples again preferable whole wheat bread or brown rice.
Wholesome food is of course the healthiest option. Salads are made of fresh vegetables, fruits and legumes but most of the dine-in and restaurants are designed to tingle and tantalize our taste buds rather than appease our hunger or nourish us. It is necessary to make sure the food you opt for contains ample protein and fibre.
Do you really think reaching the restaurant famished and hogging is indeed a "Paisa-Vasool"?
Many times we believe that we can get our money's worth in a buffet only if reach there starving. How wrong are we! In this "paisa vasool" race many of us even skip a meal or so but it is not a great deal over the long run. We end up losing far more than we bargained for in this because that will end in us consuming more.
When we reach the restaurant famished, we end up hogging the most tempting things showcased right in front of us. An average buffet spread consists of various deep-fried, high caloric and factory processed sugary snacks right at the beginning. They are showcased prominently as most of the restaurants aim at tantalizing us with the so-called popular food.
Another tempting section to be cautious about is the dessert area. Sugar has proved to be very bad not only to diabetic patients but should be avoided or at least reduced by all. Apart from obesity, sugary food can cause heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, gum diseases etc. Sugar causes heart disease and cancer.
Sugars like fructose and glucose increase insulin resistance and lead to weight gain. They also contribute to tooth decay by causing cavities. Processed food items contain preservatives and additives which make them shelf-stable. However, these chemicals do not add any nutritional value to the food and may actually harm us.
So try not to arrive in the restaurant very famished. Pick up an apple to chew as you drive down.
Have a healthy snack before you go to the restaurant
Vegetables and fruits make the easiest and best snacking option. Unfortunately, we are so used to snacking on fried and factory processed food that we don't consider vegetables and fruits as options.
Fruits are easier to pick up on the run and can be eaten without much ado. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Snacking on small pieces of fruit like banana or orange helps us by giving energy without any side effects.
Red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables not only make for a delectable salad but can also be a source of healthy phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are found in vegetables and fruits to fight against bacteria or fungi but to us humans, it is no less than a miracle. It is not only an antioxidant but also helps in anti-inflammatory activities. Phytonutrients may also enhance immunity and intercellular communication, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter estrogen metabolism.
You might think that eating before you go out to eat is a bad idea because you’ll end up overeating but actually snacking helps in weight loss too because you would end up eating lesser at the dine out. Also, with a "not so hungry" palate, you will get picky and would be able to place the order slowly. It is always better to take time and go through the ingredients and ask for healthier options like salads without paneer, dal without tadka etc.
To eat or not to eat, that is not the question - To eat which and avoid which, that is the question!
The buffet is one of the most popular social concepts that are prevalent in most urban cultures. Eating healthy does not mean we need to miss these events. Just an ounce of caution and we can eat healthy in the buffet too!
- Start with a portion of fruits, as the starter. This ensures that your initial hunger pangs are satiated. Fruits are easy to digest, too.
- Follow it up with fresh salads and a vegetable soup. Make sure they don't have milk based or sugar based creams. While the soup or the broth is filling and the salads fill you with healthy fibre.
- Avoid fried toppings or oily or real cream dressing. If you must have accompaniment then better to opt for a dip rather than pour it on your salad. Substitute fat-based dips to simple chutneys made of mint or green chilly.
- Whilst taking a note of the spread in front of you, pick out veggies that are grilled or steamed. Even stir-fried veggies are better than deep-fried ones that are dripping with oil or butter.
- Avoid fatty food at all costs. Fatty food has been proven to increase the chances of getting cardiovascular problems like hypertension, strokes and heart attacks.
- Go for protein from plant-based food like legumes and select the starters opting for healthier options like grilled or tandoor rather than fried or stir-fried. Avoid anything dripping with oil and cream.
- Choose water over the cool drinks served. Nothing is tastier and soft on our system than water with a lemon wedge in it. Many restaurants serve buttermilk in lieu of soft drinks. Though not as harmful as factory processed sugary drinks, buttermilk is also garbed as a healthy food but is not.
- Desserts like Bagel with Cream Cheese or cream with Marshmallow flavoured are equally injurious. Chocolate drizzle over most of the desserts, chocolate with peanut butter, creamy milk chocolate characterswith, dark chocolate are all to be avoided at all costs.
Choose a vegetarian hotel rather than ordering veg in a non-veg hotel
Often friends choose the famous restaurants or eligible restaurants which serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food to accommodate different tastes.
There are very precise rules about serving vegetarian food in a non-vegetarian restaurant. There are supposed to be two fires that should be at least partitioned if not completely separated. Reality is however far from this. Often, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is cooked in common vessels in a common kitchen - which should not happen. Some restaurants even fail to maintain basic hygiene. Serving vessels are often common for both types of food.
Many famous Restaurants and eligible restaurants follow the Food Safety Standards Act which states these things, let's face the reality of everyday life. With the country sprawling over three crore square kilometres housing restaurants and eat outs at almost every kilometre, it is impossible to check or inspect each and every restaurant. So it makes practical sense to go to a pure vegetarian hotel.
Make a commitment to eat slowly
Eating slowly is the best way to ensure that you eat only as much as you need. Apart from the simple fact that you tend to enjoy each bite savouring the flavour and taste, eating slowly enables you to chew rather than gulp down the food.
It is also a well-known fact that eating slowly improves digestion apart from reducing the intake, however, it might surprise many that eating slower actually reduces stress by signalling our brains to take things slowly and not hyper react. Over time this can actually bring about a shift in your thought process as you start observing your own actions objectively.
Eating out especially in a buffet should be accompanied by a bit of strolling in between the meals. This can help give your brain a long time to find that it is actually satiated and you really had enough!
Things to Avoid in Street Food
Street food is very harmful mainly due to the obvious - they are cooked in the open fire with low or almost no hygiene standards. Since most of them do not even have a permanent set-up, they can easily escape the food authorities inspection and other regulations. These very facts are the ones which enable them to sell their food so cheap.
- Specify low spices: Street food often uses strong spices and flavours to tantalise our taste buds. Most of them are unhealthy and often numbs our taste buds due to excess. This causes us to eat without realizing if the food content is fresh or spoilt. The strong spices overpower the taste and the texture of the food to the extent that if it is stale, we would never be able to spot it.
- Opt for Vegetables or fruits: While eating out eat only wholesome Vegetable Dishes. When you go out for dinner, try to order unprocessed or lesser cooked vegetable dishes. You will be surprised at the variety of choices.
- Check the state of the raw food: The street food eateries follow almost no regulations with respect to the storage and packing of raw food including the spices used. Obviously, raw food like real cream gets stale faster in humid and polluted environments like ours. Adding to the woes is the fact that we would not be able to detect stale food amongst the hot spicy or overly sugary tastes that they are dunked into.
- Order food with longer shelf life: Go for food based on vegetables like beans, berries, fruits, cruciferous, greens, flaxseeds and nuts. The beaches in India is flooded with vendors selling nuts and raw mangoes and other fruits. Amongst the beverages, it is recommended that you go for plain water, green tea, hibiscus tea, herbal tea and traditional drinks like Chukku Kaapi which is at least a century old concoction.
- Avoid deep-fried food: Some of the most popular but harmful street foods are Chat, Potato Twister, Badam Milk, Burger, Sandwich, Papadi Chat, Dahi Puri, Masala Puri, Jalebi, Pani PuriEgg Roll, maida Parota, Pizza etc.
To recap the points to consider while eating out, order healthily and consciously in the restaurant with an eye on the ingredients used to prepare the dish. Always snack on fruits before reaching the restaurant as hunger might cause us to choose unhealthy food. Pick vegetarian restaurants and don't shy away from giving specific instructions like dal without tadka!
Eating in a buffet can be changed into a healthy meal with friends if you meander away from the fried food towards the salad and fruit sections. Also, street food needs to be eaten with caution.
Eat wisely and eat healthily! Remember "You Are What You Consume."
Are you looking for a healthy plant-based eat out? click at Sampoornaahara!
Should eating out be totally avoided?
No, we can eat out and participate in regular social eating. We just need to be cautious about what we order or what we eat.
Is buffet unhealthy?
No buffet per se is not unhealthy. Just the choice of our food matters. Conscious eating will help you to eat healthy even in a buffet or party or any restaurant.
What should we do to develop healthy and conscious eating outside?
Being aware of what you want inside the body is the first step to eating healthy. Checking the ingredients of the dishes is the next step. Choosing the food which you want to eat is the third step.
Further Reading Recommends
Indians eating out is more prevalent nowadays and is directly proportional to the affluence of the family.
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