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Tips For Dining Out And Losing Weight: Eating Healthy Ethnic Cuisine

Updated on March 5, 2012

Eat Out And Lose Weight

Sticking with a healthy eating plan is difficult enough, but it can become even more so when you're dining out. When you're at a restaurant, you're at the mercy of their menu. Often, you don't know exactly what goes into each dish; people often tend to overeat, as well, since the portions are so enormous.

Nowadays, things are even more complicated for foodies looking to lose weight because there are so many different types of cuisines available from around the world. As a New Yorker, I can get Indian, Thai or Middle Eastern cuisine whenever I want. Even in smaller cities, all kinds of ethnic cuisines are offered -- with many delicious, but high-calorie options on the menu.

However, it is possible to eat out and lose weight. Here is a detailed guide on which types of dishes you're best off ordering (and avoiding) in various types of restaurants.

Eating Healthy At A Chinese Restaurant

General Tips For Making Healthy Choices While Eating Out


1. Get items that are roasted, grilled or steamed.

2. Get meats without skin and with the fat trimmed.

3. Get low-fat dressings for salads -- and ask for it on the sides.

4. Get "dry" foods, as opposed to ones covered in sauces -- or ask for a little sauce on the side.

5. Start with a low-fat clear soup or salad laden with veggies, which will fill you up.

6. Get a side order of steamed vegetables or a baked potato to go with a main dish.

7. Ask for substitutions. For instance, if a restaurant offers various chicken dishes, chances are, they will make a piece of plain, grilled chicken for you. If veggies are sauteed, ask if you can get them plain or steamed instead.

8. Consider getting two appetizers instead of one main meal.

9. See if you can get a half portion of a dish.


1. Fill up on bread. Get a soup or salad instead (but don't drown the salad in dressing).

2. Eat foods that are fried, breaded, au gratin or sauteed. These are all very fattening methods of cooking dishes.

3. Eat an entire portion. Ask for half or take half home -- or better yet, share the dish.

4. Waste calories on sugary drinks. Save the calories for a dessert, which you can share with the other diners.

5. Use too much salt and stay away from salty items.

6. Order items laden with sauce and cheese.

7. Order fattening side orders like sauteed veggies or french fries. Instead, get plain, steamed veggies or a baked potato.

8. Come to a restaurant hungry. Have a piece of fruit or cup of herbal tea beforehand so you can curb your appetite a bit and you don't go overboard.

Low-Fat Options At Chinese, Japanese and Thai Restaurants

Here are some tips for eating healthy meals at Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants:



1. Begin with a low-fat soup, such as egg drop, won-ton or vegetable. This will help fill you up at the start of the meal.

2. Choose dishes with a lot of different vegetables, so you can get in a serving of veggies. Stir fries are a decent choice over fried dishes.

3. Choose brown rice over white -- and watch the portion size. In most restaurant, a cup of rice is served. Have half.

4. Ask if you can order your dish steamed with some sauce on the side -- and then use the sauce sparingly.

5. Finish up the meal with some tea and fresh fruit, such as orange slices or pineapple chunks.

6. Ask if your dish can be made without MSG.


1. Fill up on the fried noodles that many Chinese restaurants put on the table. In fact, ask if they can be taken away.

2. Order deep-fried items, such as eggrolls or fried dumplings.

3. Order dishes, such as sweet and sour chicken or lemon chicken. In this case, the chicken is usually breaded and fried and then put in a heavy, syrupy sauce.

4. Order fried rice, Get plain brown rice instead.

5. Eat an entire entree because in most restaurants, the portions are huge. Part of the fun of eating in Chinese restaurants is sharing, anyway, so take a little of each dish and then take the rest home.



1. Start your meal with a bowl of miso soup. It's low-fat, good for you and will help fill you up.

2. Stick with sushi and sashimi, both of which are fresh, plain and low-fat.

3. If you don't like fish, ask for grilled chicken or beef with veggies. Many Japanese restaurants have a hibachi grill, but will prepare meat without the sauce, if requested.

4. Ask for brown rice over white, if it's available.


1. Get fried dishes, such as tempura or fried dumplings. Also stay away from dishes like tonkatsu or chicken katsu, which are breaded and fried.

2. Get dishes, such as chicken sukiyaki or teriyaki, where the meat is drowned in high sodium sauce. Instead, ask if you can get the sauce on the side and then use sparingly.

3. Order fried ice cream for dessert. Instead, get tea and fresh fruit.



1. Start with a clear soup, such as jued, which is made with broth, rice noodles and meat or tofu. It's very filling and relatively low in calories and fat.

2. Order grilled dishes, such as ginger beef or ginger chicken.

3. Ask for the peanut sauce on the side when ordering chicken or beef satay (skewered meat with peanut sauce).

4. Order salads without the peanut or ginger sauce, or get the dressing on the side.


1. Go overboard with Thai curries. They're delicious, but are often made with high-fat ingredients, such as coconut milk or cream. Avoid if possible, but if you must have, keep the portion small.

2. Both with rice. Thai foods are so rich, the dishes don't really need it.

3. Order fried appetizers, such as spring rolls or curry puffs or fried tofu.

4. Order Thai ice tea or coffee, which is made with sweetened, condensed milk. Stick to water, juice or regular hot tea.

Healthy Dining Out Tips

Tips For Eating Out And Losing Weight At Indian, Greek And Middle Eastern Restaurants



1. Order "dry" tandoori entrees, such as tandoori meat or chicken. These items are marinated in yogurt and then cooked in a clay oven. They're delicious and low in fat.

2. Order naan (bread) made with whole wheat flour. Whole wheat naan is available in many Indian restaurants.

3. Use raitta (a yogurt and cucumber mixture) as a condiment, as it's tasty and relatively low-fat. Just don't go overboard!

4.Order vegetarian dishes made with low-fat ingredients. A great choice is aloo gobi, which is a spicy potato and cauliflower stew.


1. Begin your meal with a tray full of fried appetizers, such as samosas or veggie fritters.

2. Order curries made with high-fat sauces, especially dishes like chicken or lamb korma, which are made with a rich, buttery curry sauce. Try to order "dry" grilled dishes instead.

3. Wolf down the basmati rice. Try to keep your portion to a half cup.

4. Order high-fat, sugary drinks like mango lassi (a mango and yogurt shake).

5. Use ghee (clarified butter), which is a high-fat condiment.

6. Order naan stuffed with items like potato and meat. Stick to plain or whole wheat naan and save the meat for the main dish.

7. Order vegetarian dishes that are drowning in sauce. It's easy to think that a veggie dish is low-fat, but if it's covered with sauce or has paneer (cheese) in it, it's not.



1. Star off your meal with a Greek salad, but go easy on the feta and dressing (or better yet, ask for them on the side).

2. Take advantage of the freshly grilled meats, chicken and fish that are abundant in Greek cuisine.

3. Have your meal with a side of grape leaves or roasted potatoes.

4. Ask for the yogurt sauce on the side when ordering a gyro or souvlaki. Also ask for other condiments, like aioli (garlic mayo) to be on the side.

5. Consider ordering a few appetizers for the table to share instead of ordering a larger dish.


1. Fill up on high-fat appetizers like spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie).

2. Order baklava for dessert, as it's high-fat and rich. But if you absolutely have to have it, stick with a very small piece.

3. Order higher-fat items like moussaka (an eggplant, meat and custard dish) or pasticcio (a meat and pasta dish),

4. Go overboard with the olives. Yes, they're delcious and good for you, but they're also high in fat. Chop up a few to add to your meal and keep it at that.



1. Order appetizers like grape leaves, hummus and pita or tabouleh (a parsley and bulgur salad). In moderation (this being the operative word), none of these are very high in fat.

2. Order grilled meats, chicken and fish. Almost every Middle Eastern restaurant I've been to, from Turkish to Afghani, has some kind of kebab (skewered meat) available.

3. Order a side of grilled veggies to go with your dish.

4. In a Moroccan restaurant, do order cous cous (a toasted grain) with veggies or a vegetable or meat tagine. These stews are usually made with fresh, simple ingredients and aren't too high in fat. Plus, they're very filling.


1. Order barekas (pie stuffed with meats, cheeses or potatoes) as an appetizer.

2. Order fried foods, such as falafel (fried chick pea balls).

3. Drown your food in tahini (sesame paste).

4. Order desserts drowning in honey.

How To Order At A French Restaurant Without Blowing Your Diet

Healthy Choices At Mexican, French And Italian Restaurants



1. Order dishes made with corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas because the ones made from corn won't spike your insulin levels as much.

2. Have salsa or pico de gallo (a tomato and onion condiment) with your dish.

3. Enjoy the guacamole, but do so sparingly. A little isn't too high in fat, but don't overdo it.

4. Consider having soup as a meal. Black bean or tortilla soups are very thick and filling and make a great light entree.

5. Choose one drink, such as a margarita, and keep it at that. It's easy to get carried away having fun, colorful drinks, but don't go overboard as they're high in calories.

6. Order grilled meats or fajitas. The great thing about fajitas is that you get to arrange them yourself!

7. Ask for extra veggies in your taco and skip the cheese.


1. Chow down on fried tortilla chips. They're very fattening, so you're better off "spending" the calories on a drink or your meal.

2. Order high-fat refried beans. Instead, ask for a side of black beans.

3. Order dishes drowning in sauce, cheeses and sour cream. That said, stay away from the nachos!

4. Order refried ice cream for dessert.

5. Order a taco salad or any type of salad that comes in a tostada shell. That shell can put calories way over the top -- even if it is a salad.

6. Don't fried dishes, such as chimichangas or chilles rellenos.



1. Tale advantage of the fresh French cuisine and order simple grilled fish or meat dishes. Trust me, you won't miss the sauce!

2. Order dishes labeled provencal since they're cooked in a tomato-based sauce.

3. Skip the chocolate mousse for dessert and instead have some fresh fruit and cheese. But stick to the hard cheeses, which are less fattening than the cream-based ones.


1. Order dishes that are drowning in a creamy, buttery sauce, such as bechamel or Hollandaise. Stuff that's made "a l'orange" is very fattening, as well.

2. Begin with onion soup, since the French version is made with bread and cheese.

3. Order pates or terrines, which are high in calories.

4. Order creamy, rich pastries for dessert. Opt for fruit or sorbet instead.

5. Go overboard with the wine. Stick to one or two glasses.



1. Order pastas made with tomato-based sauces -- and ask for a half portion.

2. Order pizzas with a whole wheat crust, if available. As for toppings, opt for veggies and mushrooms over meat -- and stick to two small slices or one large slice, max.

3. Skip pasta in favor of grilled meats, fish or chicken. And then get roasted potatoes or steamed veggies on the side instead of pasta.

4. Have a slice of plain Italian bread with a little olive oil if you really need bread. This is a healthier alternative to high-fat garlic bread.

5. Get tomatoes and fresh mozzarella as an appetizer instead of mozzarella sticks, which are fried.


1. Order pastas with creamy sauces, such as Alfredo or carbonara.

2. Order pastasĀ  which are stuffed, such as ravioli, tortellini or lasagna. They're delicious, but very high in calories!

3. Order appetizers, such as fried zucchini or sauteed broccoli. Yes, they're vegetables, but those cooking methods add calories.

4. Order rich pastries for dessert, such as cannolis. Instead, get some sorbet and a cappucino -- or share the richer desserts with the rest of your table.


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