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Dine out healthfully, it’s not an oxymoron

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Dining out doesn’t have to mean filling out an extra pant or skirt size. Globally, two-thirds of people now seek healthy options on menus when eating in a restaurant.

This is according to the 2012 World Menu Report, a report of eating-out trends in 10 countries (USA, UK, China, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, South Africa and Indonesia) by Unilever Food Solutions, a multinational company based in Rotterdam and London.

Many restaurant chefs are listening to this diner demand by offering more healthful options on their menus. And there are a few tips and tricks to choosing what to eat when dining out.

First, see if you can get a copy of a menu in advance. Many restaurants post their menu online or have a list of offerings available to peruse ahead of time. Check specials of the day upon arrival; these often feature healthy fresh fish or seafood, or entrees brimming with fresh produce.

Words used in menu descriptions that signify healthy choices include baked, braised, broiled, grilled, marinated, poached, roasted, steamed and stir-fried.

Beyond how dishes are prepared, portions sizes are the biggest problem when dining out. Consider splitting a large entrée with a friend. And don’t be afraid to ask for a doggie bag. It’s a great way to enjoy a great meal twice.

Here is a sampling of some of the most healthful choices from the world’s most popular cuisines:

American Cajun: red beans and rice (without sausage), boiled shrimp or crawfish, jambalaya (a mixture of meat, vegetables and rice), turkey po’ boy sandwich (submarine-like sandwich served on a baguette).

Chinese: wonton or hot-and-sour soup, steamed dumplings, lightly stir-fried entrees with lots of veggies such as moo-shu pork or Szechwan pork with steamed white rice, fortune cookies.

French: Steamed mussels, oysters on the half shell, tuna tartare, coq au vin (braised chicken and mushrooms in a Burgundy wine sauce), bouillabaisse (fish stew), grilled fish with Bordelaise or other wine-based sauces, fruit sorbet.

Germany: rote linsensuppe (red lentil soup), mohrrübensuppe (carrot soup), gurkensalat (cucumber salad), kartoffel und heringssalat (potato and herring salad), geräucherte forelle (smoked trout).

Greek: dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with a rice mixture), tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt appetizer or dip), hummus, roast lamb or shish kabob served with couscous or bulgur wheat, plaki (fish cooked in a tomato, garlic, onion sauce).

Indian: chicken or beef tikka (oven-roasted with spices) or tandoori (marinated in spices and baked in a clay oven), vegetable curries, matar pulao (rice pilaf with peas), saag (cooked green vegetable dish), chapati (thin whole-wheat bread).

Italian: minestrone soup, pasta primavera (pasta topped with sautéed veggies) or pasta with marinara (tomato, onion, garlic-based sauce), chicken marsala, piccata, Italian ice.

Japanese: vegetable sushi, su udon (hot noodles in broth), sumashi soup (broth-based with shrimp and tofu), yosenabe (vegetables and seafood hot pot), chicken teriyaki, sukiyaki (beef and vegetables).

Mexican: ceviche (marinated fish and shellfish), grilled beef, chicken or fish grilled and served with beans, rice and flour tortillas, fajitas (lean chicken or beef with peppers and onions), chicken or beef enchiladas topped with salsa, tamales (meat, cheese or vegetables wrapped and steamed in corn husks), flan served with fruit.

Thai: tom yam goong (hot and sour shrimp soup), pad Thai (noodles stir-fried with tofu, egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions and shrimp), khao neaw kaew (sweet sticky rice).

Vietnamese: bo xa liu nuong (grilled beef in rice paper with veggies and lemongrass), ca hap (steamed whole fish), canh chua tom (spicy and sour shrimp soup), lychee fruit.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Contact her through www.the-triton.com/author/carol-bareuther.

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