Dinner like a winner

”Tis the season and if you are anything like me, you have definitely been getting more merry than usual. All of those Christmas parties and seasonal drinks add up. I’m a big believer in balance and I like to think we can all have our cake and eat it. Just sometimes that cake is best made sugar free. So rather than begrudgingly saying no to any festive frolics, follow my guide to your best options when eating out this holiday…

Being aware of hidden sugars in food is half of the battle; so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the restaurant what is in the sauce, talk to the host and ask what is in the dip; you will find people more open than you think and this can also open up lines of interesting conversation.

Here are my top tips to stay on top in every situation:

The sugar free situation: A buffet style shindig.

Get in to: Vegetable crudité, salads (opt for olive oil and lemon as dressings), cold meats, boiled eggs. A little hard cheese from the cheese platter won’t hurt either just avoid the quince paste!

Stay well away from: Deep fried dishes, pizzas, pastries and any cakes, lollies and all of the sugar laden treats on offer.

The sugar free situation: Tapas

Get in to: Olives, grilled meat, fish, seafood and veggies. Salads dressed with olive oil and lemon.

Stay well away from: Anything covered in sauce – it probably has added sugar. Churros!

The sugar free situation: Thai

Get in to: Rice paper rolls, salad with grilled/steamed meats, fish and seafood with fresh lemon, stir-fries with lots of veggies and fresh herb.

Stay well away from: Anything coated in a thick sauce i.e. oyster sauce, XO sauce – these almost definitely have lots of sugar added. Chilli jam. Sweet curry dishes.

The sugar free situation: Indian

Get in to: Tandoori/tikka and shish meats/fish and seafood, saag aloo (spinach), plain rice, raita, tomato and onion salad.

Stay well away from: Sweet curries, mango chutney, any fruit based dishes or accompaniments, lassi and Indian sweets.

The sugar free situation: Japanese

Get in to: Steamed/grilled/pan seared fish dishes, Sashimi, miso soup, edamame steamed veggies.

Stay well away from: Any sushi in general – sushi rice is sweetened and the mayonnaise that it’s often accompanied with is also full of sugar, tempura and anything teriyaki.

The sugar free situation: Greek

Get in to: Grilled meat/poultry/fish/seafood dishes, Greek salad, dolmades, souvlaki, antipasto platters, grilled calamari and seafood, tzatziki…. in fact most things on a Greek menu will be predominantly sugar-free. However, that doesn’t mean that they are great for your waistline. Be sensible here!

Stay well away from: Honey dishes, loukoumades, baklava.

The sugar free situation: Bar food

Get in to: Grilled steak/fish with salad or vegetables and ask for no side sauces. Salads with lemon juice and olive oil as dressing.

Stay well away from: Sliders and burgers, pizzas, bbq or honey ribs and wings. Cocktails!

The sugar free situation: Breakfast and brunch.

Get in to: Poached/boiled eggs with yummy sides such as mushrooms, tomato, spinach, avocado, smoked salmon or feta and sourdough, or any combination of the above. Green juices, green teas and green smoothies – green is generally a good thing! Coconut water or better still a whole baby coconut – yum!

Stay well away from:  Granola/muesli toasted and untoasted, acai bowls, banana bread, toast and pastries with preserves, flavoured bagels and croissants, pancakes and hot cakes. And be careful of that almond chai – chances are it has a fair bit of sneaky hidden sugar.

The final sugar free situation: Out for drinks

As you know, it is a good idea to limit alcohol in general and especially of working toward a health and fitness goal. Try to limit these alcoholic options to to 1-2 glasses. And go for it with the non-alcoholic options. Not only will your waistline thank you but so will your head the morning after!

Get in to: 

Soda water and lime – You will find that this clean taste is actually far more refreshing than a beer or wine. Try adding mint for that extra zing.

Coconut water – full of electrolytes, this smooth drink pleases the taste buds and the body.

Soda and coconut water – try combining the above by topping your coconut water with soda, adding a big squeeze of lime and throwing in the mint – mocktail magic!

Add clear spirits (gin/vodka/tequila) to any of the above on a couple of rounds max.

A good quality glass of red wine, or 2!

Stay well away from: Sweet wines, beers, alcopops, cocktails, ports and sticky/dessert wines, sugary mixers and fruit juices.

Final tip: Alcohol tends to lower your reserve and makes wavering from your good intentions far more likely. If you are out for drinks and drinks only make sure you have a healthy, hearty meal before you leave the house. This will ensure that you aren’t tempted by any sugary snacks or late night take aways.

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