How to Select Healthy Meals at International Restaurants
Many restaurants will adjust their menu and/or cooking methods if you simply ask them to. You as the customer are helping to keep them in business so they want to make you happy!
Here are some tips to support healthy eating when it comes to your favorite international cuisines:
Chinese: Chinese restaurants can add monosodium glutamate (MSG) to their food, which many people find themselves allergic to it. Look for “steamed” options for your protein and vegetables with sauce on the side (or opt for no sauce at all). Choose vegetables that are less absorbent such as broccoli, snow peas and peppers as opposed to eggplant which absorbs sauces and oils.
Italian: Often bread is brought to the table right away, consider asking your server to not bring it to the table to avoid temptation. For entrées, opt for marinara-based sauces instead of cream-based sauces. For pasta dishes consider getting a half portion, gluten-free options or plant-based noodles such as zucchini noodles. Ask for less cheese, cheese on the side, or if given the option skip it altogether. When it comes to pizza opt for thin crust with more vegetables on top.
Indian: Tandoori meats are grilled and make a great option. Kebabs are another option, if available. Avoid fried items like pakora and samosas. Pass on items that have a gravy sauce since they tend to be heavy on the butter. Keep in mind the flours used in the sauces sometimes contain wheat flour so if you have a gluten sensitivity, it's best to opt-out of the sauces. Lentils and chickpeas provide good protein alternatives.
Japanese: Skip tempura options and ask for grilled meats and veggies instead. Many places will offer reduced sodium soy sauces for dipping (some may still contain MSG so double check the ingredients). You can also get gluten-free soy sauce called Tamari. Using chopsticks slows down your eating, giving your gut plenty of time to send signals of fullness to your brain.
Mexican: Avoid battered/fried menu items and go for grilled. Swap out cheese and sour cream for salsa and guacamole and ditch the tortillas and corn chips. Turn that taco into a salad.
Mediterranean: Go for a Greek Salad and ask for the dressing on the side so you can control the amount, and if you have a dairy intolerance, ask for no Feta. Ditch the pita bread and order grilled anchovies or grilled meat or a side of olives.
Peruvian: Stick with grilled meats, fish, and vegetables. Avoid fried foods and sugary desserts. Peruvian foods are high in quality spices and flavor. Ceviche is raw fish that makes a great appetizer or entrée.
Thai: Smart choices include spring rolls that have either meat and veggies or just veggies wrapped in rice paper. Satay (grilled meat skewers), hot and sour soup, papaya salad, cashew chicken or mixed veggies with tofu are also healthy options.
Eating at your favorite restaurants doesn't have to mean you sabotage your healthy lifestyle. Try these yummy options next time you venture out.