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Beating the business lunch bloat!

03 Mar 2014 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Good eating habits often go out of the window when you’re invited to a business lunch. After all, a restaurant meal, however “light” it pertains to be, isn’t exactly going to help you stick to a healthy and wholesome eating plan. But, with some clever thinking and a little forward planning, there are ways to make sure you get the healthiest options wherever you go.

Get off on the right foot:
You arrive at the restaurant, stomach rumbling, and you’re greeted by the sight and smell of fabulous fare.  This is the most critical point for you to take charge of your experience.
Avoid the trap of having bread or nibbles before your meal arrives.  You’re more likely to end up eating too much.
Order water straight away as hunger is easily confused with thirst and if you still feel as though you’re on the verge of passing out, opt for a spicy tomato juice or vegetable drink to bridge the hunger gap.

Navigate the menu wisely:
Look out for dishes that are highlighted on the menu as healthier or lighter options.  Many restaurants have started to include nutritional information on their menus.  Read it and learn! The spaghetti carbonara might sound tempting with its beautifully worded, mouth-watering description, but you may think twice about ordering it when you see how many calories it contains.

Consider ordering a couple of starters instead of a large main.  Be careful though.  A smaller portion doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthier one.  If the choice of appetisers looks unwholesome, share a wisely chosen main dish instead.

Make savvy selections:
There are some obvious buzzwords to keep an eye out for that will help you avoid making unhealthy choices.  Steer clear of anything that has the word “fried” in its description.  “Deep-fried” is a no-brainer but you may be tempted to order something that’s “pan-fried” as it sounds less sinful.  Wrong!  Chances are your pan-fried chicken or steak has been smothered in a hearty dose of butter.

Opt instead for dishes that are grilled, steamed or roasted. Keep it simple: grilled tuna steaks, baked halibut, chargrilled chicken breasts are all great choices.  Main dishes such as lasagne, curries and moussaka are naturally very creamy and/or cheesy.  If you’re not sure what’s in some of the dishes on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask. Vegetable side dishes often come doused in butter so make sure you ask for your veggies to be steamed.

You may think that a salad is the go-to healthy option.  But be wary of the dressing.  Many dressings can instantly render your salad as high in calories as a bacon cheeseburger.  Ask for an oil-and-vinegar based dressing to be served separately.

Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications.  Most restaurants will be happy to oblige as long as your request is reasonable.

Stop at 80%:
Although most of us have probably been brought up to eat every single morsel laid in front of us, this can spell trouble when presented with a large plate of food in a restaurant. Some eateries are notorious for their over-generous helpings. Whatever you choose to eat, think about the portion size, eat it slowly and stop before your belt starts to feel too tight!  The Japanese have a very handy expression, “hara hachi bu” which translates roughly as “eat until 80% full.”  This is excellent advice that will leave you more satisfied after the meal, less inclined to fall into a “food coma” and feel adequately fuelled to carry out the rest of your day’s work.

Room for dessert?:
As boring as it may sound, it’s probably better to skip dessert altogether.  Almost every dessert on offer will be high in fat.  However, if you know that you’re going to cave when presented with a dessert menu filled with words and phrases that convey lusciousness, decadence and indulgence, then plan ahead.  When you place your order, tailor it so that you can perhaps share a very small sweet something…and then make a beeline for the gym after work!

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