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Smart ordering: low(er) calorie menu ideas

Viewed 676 times24-5-2013 11:56 AM | Herbalife

Smart ordering: low(er) calorie menu ideas
By , May 23, 2013

Smart Ordering | How to choose food that isn't calorie dense | Discover Good Nutrition | Herbalife


Dining in ethnic restaurants can be tricky – many dishes have so many ingredients, that it’s hard to figure out how many calories you’re eating.


Some people eat in restaurants a few times a week or more – and if that group includes you then that’s often enough to wreck your diet if you’re not careful. That’s one reason I’ve written about smart ordering in restaurants and how to order what you really want. But choosing food in ethnic restaurants deserves some special attention, because the dishes are often a lot more complicated – so it’s not only harder to know what to choose, it’s also tough to figure out exactly what you’re eating. It’s relatively easy to “guesstimate” the calories in a piece of grilled fish and a pile of veggies, but trying to estimate the calories in mixed dishes – like lasagna or Thai green curry – is even harder, since there are so many ingredients.


It would be nice if more restaurants posted the calorie counts for their dishes, but most don’t. Large chain restaurants are more likely to have that information, but if you like to seek out less common dishes at your neighborhood independent restaurants, you’re on your own.


Here in the US, new Federal guidelines – which aren’t in effect yet, but will be soon – require that any restaurant chain with 20 or more locations will need to post the calorie content of their menu items (similar rules are already in effect in some states). But about half of all US restaurants are independent – so they won’t have to comply – which means we’ll probably never know exactly how much we’re eating when we visit our neighborhood “hole in the wall”.


A study led by Jean Mayer and published this week1, did attempt to shed a little light on the subject. The researchers reported that a typical meal purchased from a ‘mom and pop’ restaurant (an array of the most popular items from Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, Greek, Vietnamese and American restaurants in Boston) averaged more than 1300 calories – about two-thirds of an average adult’s calorie needs for the whole day. And, interestingly, the meals averaged 18% more calories than equivalent dishes from chain restaurants that are required to post their calorie information.


How to choose food that isn't calorie dense | Discover Good Nutrition | Herbalife


Whether the same holds true world-wide is yet to be seen, but the tips below may at least help you to make the best choices. Take some time to get familiar with popular offerings in ethnic restaurants so you know what ingredients they might contain. Keep in mind, though, that portion control is key, even if you choose wisely because yes, you can eat too much of a good thing.

 Tips for making the best choices in ethnic restaurants

Here are some pointers for the best choices from some of the most popular ethnic cuisines:


Mexican Food:

Say yes to: grilled seafood and poultry; soft tacos; salads; salsas.

Have less of: chips, quesadillas, chorizo, sour cream, cheese.


Chinese Food:

Say yes to: veggies, tofu, seafood, poultry; stir-fried, steamed, simmered, braised dishes; oyster, black bean, lobster sauce; soups; green tea.

Have less of: white rice, noodles, fried appetizers or meats, sweet and sour sauce.


Italian Food:

Say yes to: green salads, broth-based soups, grilled meats and fish; marinara, wine or clam sauce.

Have less of: fatty meats, cheese, cheese-filled pasta; cream sauces.


Japanese Food:

Say yes to: miso soup; yakitori, sukiyaki, sushi, sashimi; vinegar, teriyaki, soy sauces; green tea.

Have less of: white rice, katsu (fried dishes), tempura, udon.


Thai and Vietnamese Food:

Say yes to: fresh spring rolls; broth-based soups; stir-fried or grilled dishes.

Have less of: fried appetizers; heavy coconut curries; peanut sauces; mee-krob; sweet sauces.


Indian Food:

Say yes to: most bean and lentil dishes; tandoori, tikka; paneer; yogurt sauces; chutney, pickles; raita.

Have less of: fried appetizers or entrees; korma; creamy curries.


Middle-Eastern Food:

Say yes to: salads, grilled fish and poultry; dolmas; hummus; baba ghanoush.

Have less of: falafel; spanakopita; baklava.



1Urban L et al. Published Online May 13, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6163.

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.


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Herbalife Independent Distributor
Kelly Yew
M:+6017-270 6899
W: Why Herbalife? Why Now?

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