Eating out can be tough for dieters following a weight-loss program since it's all too easy to give in to temptation. In fact, a main course, a dessert and a glass of wine can easily add up to 1,000 calories. However, there's no need to miss out on a great evening with friends, as it's always possible to make lower-calorie choices for a lighter meal. Here are a few tips from doctor and nutritionist Laurence Plumey on which dishes dieters should pick when eating in different types of restaurant.
Italian restaurant: forget the tiramisu
There's not much point heading to an Italian restaurant if it's to pass on pizza (700 calories). Lighten the load by ordering a half portion (or sharing with a friend), topped with ham, egg and vegetables, rather than picking a huge four-cheese pizza pie. Pasta lovers should ditch carbonara and lasagna, which are high in fat, and opt for seafood pasta or tomato-based sauces. When it comes to dessert, don't be fooled by the light texture of tiramisu -- one serving contains between 300 and 500 calories. Fruit salad is a wiser choice. Try to choose a restaurant with a variety of options on the menu, such as risotto, antipasti, grilled meat, seafood, etc.
Chinese restaurant: ditch the spring rolls
While Chinese and other Asian cuisines are often considered healthy, dieters should watch out for fried dishes (two deep-fried spring rolls = 200 calories) and sauces (one teaspoon of sweet-and-sour sauce = one sugar cube). Rice and steamed dumplings also contain high levels of carbohydrate. Coconut balls are off the menu for dessert -- fruit or a scoop of sorbet are better options. For a balanced meal, pick a few steamed dumplings for a starter, followed by chicken or fish with vegetables and a small serving of rice. Another temptation to avoid is the all-you-can-eat buffet. There's no point torturing yourself in a situation that's doomed to failure.
Japanese restaurant: no 12-piece sushi platter
Japanese cuisine is low in fat, except for the good omega 3 found in tuna and salmon. However, it can contain quite a bit of sugar, even in the cabbage salad. Sushi and maki are deceptive for dieters because they're made with rice vinegar and sugar. A 12-piece sushi platter soon adds up to 350 calories or more. Better options are miso soup and sashimi with a small serving of rice. Cut carbs completely in the evening.
Moroccan restaurant: stick to couscous
When choosing between couscous and tagines, remember that couscous is a leaner option. Plus, a chicken and vegetable couscous dish is more diet-friendly than lamb. Forget about merguez sausages and Moroccan mint tea, as each glass can contain up to six cubes of sugar.
Indian restaurant: no naan
The general rule in any restaurant is to avoid fried dishes. Tandoori chicken, served with rice and vegetables, is a good choice when eating Indian food. Those with a sweet tooth should order the yogurt-based drink lassi, flavored with various spices, as a reasonable and relatively low-fat dessert. As delicious as it may be, naan bread should be avoided, especially garnished naans like keema naan and Peshwari naan.
French restaurant: avoid alcohol and rich desserts
The ideal meal would start with salad, followed by grilled (rather than fried) meat or fish and a fruit salad, then fromage frais or two scoops of sorbet for dessert. Bread and alcohol should both be avoided. A glass of wine (150 calories) and a chocolate fondant add 550 calories to the meal. Note that it's OK to have a few fries along with a big helping of vegetables.
Weekday lunch breaks
The lowest-calorie sandwiches come filled with plenty of salad or raw vegetables and no mayonnaise. Fans of kebabs (400 calories) should lose the fries and go easy on sauces. To compensate, stick to fruit for an afternoon snack and ditch carbs at dinner. At a fast-food restaurant, a plain burger, an unseasoned salad, a portion of fries and a diet soda will be fine. Even better -- why not try one of the many soup bars now found in city centers. In summer, vegetable or fruit juices make a refreshing change.