I’ve learned a lot about those sneaky hidden calories with my latest healthy-eating plan, and while I can manage to restrain myself – most of the time – on home territory, (apart from when it comes to homemade banana bread, which tests me on every level), it can be a very different story, when I eat out.
A perfect example was Saturday night, when this fig and Gorgonzola starter, followed by Italian Bread and Butter Pudding were the latest nails in the coffin of my current healthy eating plan – crazy bitch behaviour, because I really only fell at the last hurdle, having gritted my teeth through my fish and salad main course while I watched my friends devour what was basically an overdose of cheese on a pizza base in front of me.
It’s easily done, and SHOULD be done now and then, just not every weekend, otherwise you become caught up in that vicious circle of losing weight during the week and piling it all back on (and more) at the weekend.
But self-discipline is really tricky when you eat out because you don’t want to be the party pooper on salad and then you have to watch your friends gorge on the yummy stuff as well as contend with the psychological warfare that tries to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and again, even though you know that healthy eating has to be a permanent lifestyle change to work.
And this is where that knowledge/obsession with the hidden calories in food really comes in useful, because BEWARE, fellow foodies, there are ingredient faux amis out there, just waiting to help you fail.
I’m talking about you, boiled rice!
It’s fairly obvious that foods like pizza aren’t the best choice, but I’d always assumed that Asian food was a safer bet. Unfortunately, it all depends on the dish you choose, because when it comes to ingredients dressed up to sound healthy, Asian food has a ton of hidden wickedness.
For a start, forget any dish with rice in it, bread on the side, coconut milk in the sauce or if it has been deep-fried. A cup of boring, boiled rice has 250 calories, so you can imagine the additional calorie wastage when it’s fried – especially when those extra, precious calories could give you two glasses of wine, a light starter, or my personal favourite, a scoop of Green Tea ice cream at my local Japanese.
The safest bet if you like Indian food is to go with the vegetarian options or a Tandoori chicken and salad. A simple chicken or veggie stir-fry is the safest option with Thai.
So much of Asian food is deep-fried – which means goodbye to old friends such as spring rolls, money-bags and tempura. Even dumplings and Gyoza can be quite deceptive unless you can stick to four as your main course…which is obviously humanly impossible.
Vietnamese food, on the other hand, which is vegetable and herb based is a much healthier choice, although you still need to watch out for those sneaky little peanuts and sticky sauces.
Italian is obviously not the best, but if you can stick to one course, avoid the bread and order either a traditional meat or fish (unbreaded) dish or vegetarian dish such as a tomato-based pasta with the teeniest teaser of Parmesan on the top, it’s not so bad.
And thankfully, pub food is moving with the times and gone are the days when there is only a pie (my ultimate hangover food) on offer.
This is the pie they serve at our local, so you can see my problem.
These days, my healthy choice at the pub has to be more along the lines of a Caesar Salad (sob!) with grilled chicken (if I’ve got any chance of getting into a cocktail dress in May) – WITH DRESSING ON THE SIDE AND IGNORE THE CROUTONS… ONCE YOU’VE CHECKED THEY’RE OK, OBVIOUSLY – maybe a salmon and salad or a stuffed chicken dish.
I’ve even spotted Quinoa at our local, which must seriously piss off the Parmi Army.