Indulge without the bulge: what to order when eating out these holidays

18 December 2016 - 02:00 By Shanthini Naidoo
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Woman, burger, diet
Woman, burger, diet
Image: iStock

Follow this 'cheat sheet' to make smart menu choices and avoid packing on the kilos this festive season

It is the season to indulge and our warm South African weather means you can still eat relatively healthy food without the grudge.

The down side is all the cold beer and chilled white wine that you need to get you through the hot days.

Stellenbosch university dietician Irene Labuschagne says there are good health (and weight) choices that you can make this festive season - with cheat days in between.


"It's about choice. Many fast foods are unhealthy and may affect health and weight gain. However, if you eat fast food, choose menu options with care. Choose healthy foods that are nutrient-rich and small in portion size, such as grilled fish, fish cakes or fruit salad," she says.

"Go for lower energy options that contain some fruit and/or vegetables, such as salad. Avoid supersized or 'value' combo meals, which have more energy than you need in one sitting. Choose fresh fruit such as chilled watermelon for dessert.

"Pick steamed or baked items over fried ones. And drink water or fat-free milk instead of cold drinks."

sub_head_start WHAT TO EAT AND AVOID ON RESTAURANT MENUS sub_head_end


BAD: Beef or lamb - both meats are high in fat and energy. To reduce the amount of fat in your meal choose dishes with tomato-based sauces, such as jalfrezi, rogan josh and madras. Avoid creamy curries such as korma, pasanda, makhani, butter chicken or masala, as well as fried side dishes like bhajis, pakoras and poppadoms.

The plus side: Many of the spices associated with Indian cuisine have significant health benefits. Cumin and mustard seeds are believed to aid digestion, while coriander has anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce cholesterol.

GOOD: By ordering steamed rice instead of pilau, you'll save 1,176kj and 34g of fat. Buttery naans are packed with 1,911kj and 12g of fat, so rather have chapati or roti that weighs in at only 462kj and less than 1g of fat.

BETTER: Chicken, fish or vegetables are healthier than red meats. Another good option is a dry dish, such as tandoori chicken. Order plenty of vegetarian, tomato-based curries, including lentil side dishes.

Jackie Clausen 


BAD: Cream and wine can make something relatively healthy, like chicken livers, kill your calorie count.

GOOD: Portuguese foods contain chilli, or peri-peri, which is great for your overall health and has been linked to pain relief, weight loss and even increased cardiovascular health.

BETTER: Swap the chips for a salad.




BAD: Pizza toppings that are high in fat and energy like bacon, salami, extra cheese and sausage mean you'll pile on the energy (kilojoules).

GOOD: Tomatoes that are used in many Italian dishes offer a great source of Vitamins A, C, K and potassium. They're naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Garlic is versatile and has a number of health benefits. Its anti-oxidant properties help reduce cholesterol, promote a healthy immune system function, lower blood pressure and strengthen the body's defences.

BETTER: Go for onions, chillies, mushrooms, tuna, anchovies, peppers, spinach, roasted vegetables, olives, chicken, tomato and pineapple or banana on pizza toppings.

Share the pizza and order a fresh salad to reduce the energy density of the meal. Order the thin-crusted pizza and ask for half the cheese with more vegetable toppings.

If pasta tempts you, order whole-wheat (where available) with a tomato-based sauce and vegetables. Avoid cream or butter-based sauces.

Wine, tomatoes and pasta.iStock 


BAD: Avoid deep-fried or mayonnaise-drenched versions of sushi. Apart from not actually being sushi, it adds calories and unhealthy fats.

GOOD: Sushi is a healthy choice because fatty fish contains good omega-3 fats and there's no frying involved. Although items wrapped in layers of tuna and avocado may be higher in fat than some other sushi items, they still measure up well against many other fast-food choices.

BETTER: Tuna or cucumber maki rolls are even lower in kilojoules and fat. Spice things up with a touch of fat- and sodium-free wasabi. Ask for low-sodium soy sauce.




BAD: Beer has a high kilojoule (584kj) and carbohydrate count. While fine in moderation, the amount of beer we consume is the problem.

When drinking spirits, the fizzy drinks and juices used as mixers can easily up the calorie content with just one drink. Brandy, cane, gin, vodka, whisky and rum have about 260kj but mixed with 200ml cooldrink takes it up to 595kj.

GOOD: Alcohol-free beer has 234kj (but where's the fun in that?).

BETTER: Spirits can be higher in kilojoules than wine and beer but we tend to drink them in smaller amounts. To avoid filling up on kilojoules, mix your spirits with diet cooldrinks or mineral water. Two drinks an evening is a good limit.

A pint of beer stands on a table in a pub in Liverpool, northern England, in this file photograph dated November 19 , 2014. PHIL NOBLE 


BAD: Aperitifs and digestifs can be about 400kj.

GOOD: Tequila has a reasonable 288kj count per 25ml.

BETTER: None at all.



BAD: Semi-sweet wines and rosé can go up to 780kj per glass.

GOOD: Bubbles in small amounts are reasonable. A 100ml tot of sparkling wine equals about 310kj.

BETTER: Red and white wines vary between 300 and 500kj. White is usually lighter. The key is to dilute it with ice or water. Spritzers for the win.



BAD: 135ml Pina Colada has 1,096kj, a 210ml Screw-driver has 729kj and a 75ml Martini has 653kj.

GOOD: Mixers are the problem. Try tomato juice in a 150ml Bloody Mary which has 482kj.

BETTER: 50ml Muscadel or port has 286kj, while a dry medium cream sherry or vermouth has 223kj.


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