Even the most dedicated dieters become unhinged at restaurants. For starters, you’re hungry. The portions are big, the grease is flowing, and everyone else is ordering extra cheese and sides of bacon. Why not join them? After all you’ve been subsisting on salads, whole grains, lean protein, and proper portions, so why not live a little? The habit of dieters staying on track during the week and then binging over the weekend is as harmful as it is common. You may be the perfect dieter five days out of seven, but if you go hog wild over the weekend, you might as well kiss your weight loss goals goodbye.
When social events come up and you find yourself staring at a menu full of meals you want but shouldn’t have, it pays to be prepared. These are some of the best and worst foods you can order at some of the most popular types of restaurants.
Worst: Everyone loves Mexican food, but if you’re trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, you’ll want to skip the giant, deep-fried burrito, also known as a chimichanga. As tempting as it may be, the unfried version should also be avoided. A standard burrito is usually way more food than you need and contains a hefty serving of cheese, sour cream, and rice.
Best: Fajitas give you all the flavor but put you in control of the ingredients and portion size. For starters, opt for corn tortillas over flour. They’re lower in calories and fat, but have more fiber than their flour cousins. Load on your meat of choice and plenty of veggies, but be sparse with toppings. Choose guac over sour cream and only toss on a sprinkling of cheese. If you see fish or shrimp Veracruz on the menu, look no further. Veracruz is a style of Mexican food that grills, bakes, or braises the ingredients rather than frying.
Worst: Chances are at some point during your diet you’ll find yourself at a Chinese restaurant. Lo mein may be tempting, but keep in mind that just one cup of lo mein has an average of 200 calories and that’s excluding the sauce. This dish may be delicious, but it’s probably not worth the 900 or more calories per platter. The refined carbohydrates will fill your stomach but won’t keep you full for long.
Best: Many Chinese restaurants have a “healthy” section of their menu. Order your meal from there and if you see it, try the Buddha’s Delight. The dish is packed with veggies, sometimes steamed tofu, and plenty of fiber. This dish is very diet friendly at only around 200 calories per platter.
Worst: Unless you’re on a high-carb, high-fat diet Italian food may quickly become your worst enemy. Those piles of noodles and pools of creamy sauce do nothing good for your waistline. For starters, avoid pastas drenched in cream sauce or covered in cheese. Spaghetti carbonara can hit hard at an average of 820 calories a dish. If you have a tendency to binge on bread, ask your server not to bring the bread basket or maneuver it to the other end of the table.
Best: Skip over the pastas and pizzas and choose a simple grilled meat option, preferably with a side of steamed or grilled veggies. If you can’t resist pasta, choose a penne puttanesca or linguine aglio e olio, which are simple and devoid of cream.
Worst: While sushi is overall fairly healthy and lower in calories than most restaurant fare, the shrimp tempura roll is as fattening as sushi gets. The shrimp is battered in flour, salt, and sometimes, egg, before being deep-fried.
Best: If you’re looking for a simple, low carb sushi option, there is nothing better than sashimi. The rice free form of sushi is just raw fish seasoned to perfection. If you can’t stomach raw fish, choose a California roll but make sure you’re getting real crab, which gives you a dose of omega-3 fatty acids. The crunch of cucumber and flavor of avocado is always satisfying.