Most Americans love the opportunity to eat out at restaurants and try new and different foods. Asian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, Japanese, as well as Greek, Mexican and Italian are very popular.
But not all ethnic foods are good for us. Many restaurants and take-away outlets serve up high-fat, high-calorie foods that aren’t so great if you’re health conscious or if you’re watching your weight.
Dietitians suggest keeping an eye on portion size as restaurant serves can be much larger than the portions we would serve at home. They also makes the point that the fat quantity of a particular meal will vary from restaurant to restaurant, or even from chef to chef. To avoid excess fat, you can make it clear that you would like a low-fat meal when you place your order
If you’re dining out on ethnic foods, here are some ideas for keeping the calories and fat down.
The best rule of thumb to apply when eating Chinese food is to avoid foods that have been deep-fried. This includes dumplings, spring rolls, fried rice and chicken or pork that has been deep fried. Steamed foods are a great choice, including steamed vegetables and steamed rice.
A high-fat combination Chinese meal including fried rice, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork and a spring roll will add up to 900 calories with 40 grams of fat. If you choose steamed rice, steamed vegetables, chicken and almond and beef in black bean sauce instead, you’ll save over 350 calories and 27 grams of fat.
|Dumplings, pork, steamed, 1||40||3|
|Dumplings, pork, fried, 1||75||7|
|Spring roll, small, 1.5 oz||100||7|
|Steamed rice, 1 cup||185||0|
|Fried rice, 1 cup||360||4|
|Noodles, plain, boiled, 1 cup||135||1|
|Noodles, plain, egg, 1 cup||200||3|
|Beef in black bean sauce, 17 oz||530||33|
|Chicken and almonds, 18 oz||685||50|
|Chow Mein, Beef/chicken, 24 oz||940||60|
|Sweet and sour fish, 20 oz||1160||58|
|Omelet, chicken/shrimp, 16 oz||990||82|
|Fortune cookie, each||25||0.5|
The ever-increasing popularity of Japanese food makes life easier for those watching their weight. With sushi bars popping up all over the place, a low-fat, low-calorie lunch, dinner or snack is never too far away. On average, a sushi lunch pack has 330 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Other than sushi, Japanese foods can be quite high in fat and calories, especially fried noodles or tempura. Your best choices include miso soup, udon noodle soup or Teriyaki chicken.
|Sushi lunch menu (assorted), regular serving||330||3|
|Nigiri-Zushi (fish-wrapped sushi), 1 piece, salmon||35||1|
|Nori-Maki-Zushi (seaweed-wrapped sushi), 1 piece, egg omelet||70||1|
|Sashimi, average all types||130||3.5|
|Miso soup, 1 cup, with tofu||85||3|
|Teppan Yaki, (steak, seafood and vegetables), 10 oz||470||30|
|Teryaki chicken, 4 oz||260||9|
|Noodles, Udon, plain, 1.5 cup||335||2|
|Tempura, 3 large prawns and vegies||320||18|
|Sake wine, 100 ml||115||0|
Rich curries with creamy sauces can make Indian and Pakistani food quite expensive when you’re on a calorie budget.
Good food choices from Indian and Pakistani restaurants are steamed rice, dal (lentil puree) with no oil, Murgh Tikka and Tandoori chicken.
|Aloo samosa, each||150||12|
|Chicken Pilaf (Murgh Biriyani)||700||53|
|Mulligatawney soup, average||300||15|
|Murgh Tikka, 1 cup||300||4|
|Dal (lentil puree), 1 cup, no oil||230||1|
|Naan bread, 8″ x 2″, 1 oz||75||2|
|Pappadom, 1 large or 2 small||50||3|
|Tandoori chicken, breast||260||13|
|Tandoori chicken, leg/thigh||300||17|
Even though the Mediterranean diet has been touted as a great way to eat healthily, many of the foods served in Italian restaurants are high in both fat and calories. Creamy sauces, plenty of cheese and large portion sizes are the biggest problems with this style of cuisine. If you’re dining out on Italian food, try to skip the cream sauce wherever you can. One way to monitor portion size is to order an entrée size dish for your main meal.
Even foods such as antipasto, bruschetta, ciabatta and foccacia can be high in calories, so choose carefully from what’s on offer. Try to avoid cheese, salami, pesto and mayonnaise as these will add heaps of fat to your meal. If possible, order your food without these types of ingredients.
When ordering pizza, go for a vegetarian option and ask for half the cheese. Better still, make your own healthy pizzas at home on a pitta bread base with low-fat ingredients.
When it comes to dessert, skip the Tartufo or Tira Misu and go for a gelati or sorbet instead. Choose a skim cappuccino or latte instead of a full-fat one.
|Antipasto (2 slices salami, 3 olives, ½ cup vegies)||185||10|
|Bruschetta, 2 slices||380||17|
|Cannelloni, 1 tube, 6 oz||280||15|
|Gnocchi, spinach, 1 cup||300||18|
|Lasagne with meat, 10 oz||400||17|
|Linguine with Red Clam Sauce||570||10|
|Pasta (2 cups) with Bolognese (meat) sauce||650||16|
|Pasta (2 cups) with meatballs||960||42|
|Pasta (2 cups) with Marinara sauce||540||13|
|Pizza, average, ½ medium||600||26|
|Ravioli, 8 oz||300||12|
|Tortellini, 20 pieces||530||20|
Lebanese and Greek
There are lots of healthy, low-fat foods to choose from Lebanese and Greek cooking styles. Dips, in particular, are a good choice, especially if low-fat varieties are available. Hummus, tzatziki and baba ghannouj make great choices.
Other good choices include Greek salad and tabouli (cracked wheat salad). Try to avoid pastries, such as spinach triangles, as well as moussaka and deep fried calamari. Go easy on felafel, kebabs and souvlaki. When it comes to desserts, baklava and other pastries are laden with fat and calories, so try to avoid these if you’re watching your weight or your fat intake. Opt for a gelati or sorbet instead.
|Baba Gannoujh, 1 tbsp||70||6|
|Cabbage roll, 3 oz||100||3|
|Hummus, 2.2 oz||105||3|
|Moussaka, 1 serve, 8 oz||350||22|
|Kafta, 1 skewer, 1.5 oz||85||5|
|Spinach pie, 3.5 oz||290||21|
|Cous cous, 1 serve||250||21|
|Tabouli, 4 oz||170||14|
|Shawourma, 4 oz||280||15|
|Felafel, fried, 1 oz||60||4|
|Baklava pastry, average, 3.75 ounces||400||21|
Mexican and Spanish
Mexican food can offer some healthy choices if you’re prepared to forgo the cheese, sour cream and corn chips. Try chicken or beef fajitas – at 200 calories each, they won’t break the calorie bank. Bean burritos have up to 380 calories each, while tacos with meat, cheese and salad have 250 calories each. Steer clear of the nachos – a large serve of nachos can have as much as a whopping 65 grams of fat.
If you’re dining out Spanish-style, you could try a bowl of Gazpacho at a low 60 calories with no fat, a serve of Clams Marinera at 330 calories with 16 grams of fat, or how about Arroz Abanda (fish with rice) at 340 calories and 8 grams of fat? Keep your eye on the calories and the portion size of a paella – a large serving can have as many as 900 calories and 42 grams of fat. A homemade paella may be a better option than choosing paella when you’re dining out.
And don’t forget the calories from alcohol! A margarita has about 160 calories.
|Burrito, bean (Taco Bell)||380||12|
|Burrito, Big Beef Supreme (Taco Bell)||520||23|
|Chilli con carne, lean meat, no beans||370||19|
|Chilli con carne, with beans and meat||310||17|
|Corn chips, ½ cup||147||7.5|
|Enchilada, beef, average||330||10|
|Fajitas, chicken, each||200||7|
|Gaucamole, 2 tbsp||70||8|
|Margarita, with 1.5 oz Tequila||160||0|
|Taco shell, regular||54||3|
|Arroz Abanda (fish with rice)||340||8|
|Clams Marinera, 8 clams||330||16|
|Coccid Madrileno (Madrid-style boiled dinner)||450||27|
|Paella a la Valenciana||900||42|
|Pollo a la Espanola (chicken)||475||30|
Thai cooking offers plenty of exciting flavors but the thing to avoid is full-fat coconut milk. If you’re cooking Thai at home, use low-fat coconut milk instead.
When dining out, choose hot and sour soups, spicy salads and vegetable stir-fry with steamed rice or steamed rice noodles. Avoid fried noodles, creamy coconut curries and coconut based soups.
|Satay pork, 1 stick||100||4|
|Spring roll, 1.25 oz||110||6|
|Tom Yam soup, seafood, 1 cup||100||3|
|Tom Yam soup, vegetarian||50||0|
|Thai beef salad, 1 serve||260||9|
|Steamed fresh fish with spicy Thai sauce||450||8|
|Thai chicken curry, 1 cup||340||23|
|Thai beef curry, 1 cup||500||32|
|Massaman curry, 1 cup||680||57|
|Pad Thai, 18 oz||990||38|
Fresh vegetables, herbs and spices are a predominant feature of Vietnamese cooking. Fresh rice-paper spring rolls offer a healthy choice and stir-fry vegetables, meats, poultry and tofu with steamed rice also make good choices.
Things to avoid are prawn fritters, deep-fried spring rolls and creamy coconut curries.
|Beef satay, 2 sticks||265||9|
|Canh Chay (vegetable and tofu soup)||80||3|
|Ga Chien (Crispy chicken with plum sauce)||900||40|
|Cuu Xao Lan (Curried lamb and vegetables in coconut milk)||900||40|
|Thit Heo Goi Baup Cai, (spicy cabbage rolls with pork) each||200||7|
|Rau Cai Xao Chan (Stir-fried vegetables with soy sauce)||400||15|