Top Tips for eating out: Asian cuisines
Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian – these are all extremely popular options. However, if you are watching your weight or if you find yourself eating out regularly, what do you choose as a healthier option? This blog will help you make informed decisions to help you choose dishes that will be lower in kilojoules, fat and sugar. Unfortunately most Asian sauces and dishes are packed full of sodium so an emphasis will be placed on energy and fat content.
Provided in this blog are quick tips for healthier swaps, followed by ways to put these in to practice for the different Asian cuisines.
Putting it in to practice
Firstly, it is important to note that many Asian sauces have high quantities of sodium so use them sparingly and ask for sauces on the side, where possible. You can also ask for no salt to be added to the dish.
Secondly, many entree choices are high in fat and energy as many of them are fried – spring rolls, money bags, battered salt and pepper squid, dim sims and the list goes on. It is wise to go without an entree all together or share only 1 entree. Alternatively, choose the options that are not fried and battered and avoid dipping sauces. Soup or san choi cow can be a better choice.
Thirdly, eat only the food portions of your meal and do not consume the sauces that are left on your plate or soak them up with rice – particularly if it is a curry based on coconut milk/cream. These will contribute more fat and kilojoules.
Fourthly, rice as a side dish generally goes hand in hand with Asian cuisine. Select a stir-fry option with rice opposed to a noodle dish. Remember to keep the rice serve small though! It is still an energy dense food and provides little in the way of nutrition. The rice used (commonly Jasmine) also has a high GI.
The best options will always be the ones that incorporate the most vegetables with leaner meats and boiled rice as a side. Avoid the dishes that use creamy or sugary sauces and opt for ones using soy sauce, oyster sauce or chilli sauce.
- Pick stir-fry accompanies by a small portion of rice
- Ask for extra vegetables in your dish
- Request fresh tofu in place of fried tofu
- Feel like a curry? A jungle curry is the best option here as it forgoes the coconut milk/cream that other curries contain
- Choose the Thai beef salad, prawn salad or chicken salad. They are based on a lean meat with salad. They are lower fat, energy and still have a lot of taste!
- Avoid the Pad Thai! It is definitely a favourite but it packs a punch when it comes to calories, fat and sodium.
- Satay chicken skewers are alright for an entree. However, ask for less satay sauce or ask for it on the side.
- Steamed fish is a great option, accompanied with vegetables and steamed rice
- Stir fried vegetable dishes with chicken, beef or prawns are also a healthier option
- Steamed dumplings, wonton soup
- Anything fried. This includes many of the entrees as previously mentioned e.g. dim sims, salt and pepper squid
- Sweet and sour pork which is based on fatty pork that is battered and then fried
- Chicken chow mien. It may sound innocent but it uses deep fried noodles and a fatty meat.
- Avoid dishes like honey chicken that again batter the meat, fry it and cover it in a very sweet sauce
- Sushi and sashimi are good takeaway options (avoid the crumbed meats like chicken and tempura prawn). Although they lack in the vegetable department, they are low fat and the fish options provide omega 3. The seaweed is also a good source of iodine! Additionally, the small portion sizes mean you won’t over do it.
- Dipping sauces
- Chicken katsu
- Tempura. These vegetables are covered in a batter, this then outweighs the health benefits of the vegetables
- Sauces like teriyaki as they are high in sugar and sodium
A note on sushi trains: Sushi trains still offer healthy options but it is very easy to consume a lot more than you normally would! Seeing those little plates go past is very tempting and way too easy to grab. Some of the sushi options are also made less healthy with creamy dressings and the use of fried chicken, calamari and tempura prawns.
- Choose stir-fried dishes or salads with lots of vegetables and lean meat
- Avoid anything fried (including fried tofu – ask for fresh)
- Avoid any meals using coconut cream
- Be sensible with your portion sizes
- Skip the entree if possible
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have any questions about healthier take away options or nutrition related issues, you can make an appointment with Belinda today. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine, targeted to your concerns.