As much as you love eating out at Spanish restaurants, it’s not always easy to make smart, healthy food choices. Even seemingly healthy options can be packed with butter, salt, cream and oil.
Also, if you’re trying a cuisine that you’re not very familiar with, you may not even know what’s in certain dishes. You could end up ordering an unhealthy and fat-packed meal without even realizing it. It’s also tempting to sample multiple dishes, which can lead to overeating.
Before you try that new Spanish restaurant in your neighborhood, have an idea of what you’re going to order. Heading out for the night with a plan will prevent you from blowing your healthy eating habits on one dinner.
Side Dishes and Toppings
Many Spanish meals come with rice and beans on the side. That’s not so bad, right? Wrong! Unless the rice is brown rice, it’s not going to be very good for you. Also, when you think of beans, you probably picture a healthy meal.
You’re going to get refried beans on the side, though, which have a ton of fat and calories. Ask your server for black beans instead. Also, find out what toppings come with your meal. If they’re cream-based, ask for tomato-based sauces in their place.
Tortillas and Spice
Most Spanish restaurants serve flour tortillas, but they probably have corn tortillas in the kitchen to serve on request. Corn tortillas have twice as much fiber and half as many calories as flour tortillas.
Also, try to choose dishes that have chili peppers, which are packed with antioxidants. If the dish doesn’t normally come with chili peppers, ask for a side of them.
Entree and Dessert Choices
Instead of ordering an entree that’s made with pork or meat, choose one that’s made with fish or chicken. Pay attention to what the dish is served with, though. Grilled chicken is a great, low-fat choice until it’s served with melted cheese and sour cream.
If you’re planning on dessert, try flan. Similar in taste to creme brûlée and in nutritional value to ice cream, flan is made from milk, eggs and sugar. Overall, it’s a much better choice than cake or something fried.
Sampling Without Overeating
If you want to try a couple of different items on the menu, order two appetizers as an entree. Tapas is trendy at Spanish restaurants, so you may be able to make a meal out of several small plates. Also, a good rule of thumb is to pick two courses off the menu, but no more.
Dying for a frozen margarita? Treat yourself to one and then order either an appetizer or an entree. Can’t pass up dessert?
As long as you sip water throughout your meal, you can have an entree and fried ice cream to follow. This isn’t necessarily the healthiest approach possible, but it will help you eat normal portions in moderation.
Ryan Berman is a food safety specialist and healthresearcher. He has been working closely with the restaurant and cateringindustries to improve health standards. Visit Short Order to find out more about safe food storage.