From the mamak breakfast in the morning, the coffee shop lunch at work, to the shopping mall dinner, your weekday meals are probably all covered outside your home. When the weekend kicks in, you hang out with your mates at the mamak watching a football game till the wee hours of the morning.
While eating out is convenient for our jam-packed schedules, studies have shown that the food we consume while eating out generally have more calories, fat, and saturated fat than a home-cooked meal.
“There are many hidden ingredients such as fat, sugar, and salt in meals taken when eating out. Studies also showed that eating out frequently is associated with obesity, higher body fat, or a higher body mass index (BMI),” explains Malaysian Dietitians’ Association president Indra Balaratnam.
But let’s be realistic, with so much awesome food available at almost all hours of the day, dining out is our usual go-to choice. So how do we work around this?
Here are some easy ways to eat healthier while dining out:
1. Bungkus / Tapao
Have you ever found yourself completely stuffed, yet still trying to finish off the last of your order? This is a very Malaysian thing, with our parents constantly reminding us not to waste food. Instead of adding inches to your waist, ask to take the excess food home. You get more of the good stuff on another day too!
2. Eat slowly
Studies have told us that eating slowly plays a role in helping you eat less. By not speeding through your food, you’ll feel full before you come to the end of your plate’s contents. Spend quality time talking to your dining mate instead!
3. Order water or unsweetened tea
You don’t really have to down a milkshake or a fountain iced lemon tea (read: iced sugar tea) at the restaurant. Iced water is a refreshing, calorie-free option that’s usually pretty wallet-friendly (or free). If you want something with flavour, have some chinese tea, teh ‘o’, or lime juice without the sugar.
4. Choose the right restaurant
When you’re attempting to eat healthier, going to a fast food restaurant is probably not going to help. Check out menus before you walk in to see if they have healthier options. Or better yet, only look for health food restaurants so the menu poses no temptations.
5. Get the sauce / dressing on the side
A lot of the time, the sauce is a landmine of calories, sugars, and salt. If you ask for the rojak sauce on the side and dip your fruits instead, you’ll usually consume less of the sugar-laden stuff. The same rule applies with things like chee cheong fun, roti jala, salads, etc.
6. Swap the deep fried stuff with grilled vegetables
The next time you’re at Nando’s or Chili’s, try opting for the grilled veggies, or corn on the cob, instead of potato wedges or fries. You’ll feel just as full, with none of the guilt! This tip can also be applied to local restaurants, you just need to look and see what you can swap out.
7. Order grilled, boiled, or baked
Order a tandoori chicken instead of ayam goreng. Switch Ipoh hor fun in the place of char kway teow. Get fresh popiah instead of popiah goreng. Similarly, grilled fish and veggies will probably be nicer to your cholesterol level than beer-battered fish and chips. They’re usually as tasty, without all the nasty stuff in the deep fried versions.
8. Share your food
Most restaurant portions are huge. This means you can very quickly consume calories meant for two people in one sitting. So go with a mate and share your food. You’ll get to enjoy the same meal at half the cost and half the calories!
What do you usually order while dining out? How do you make it healthier? Share with us!