What To Eat When Eating Out - International Fare Best Choices!

International food can be very flavorful, but it can also be very fattening. To avoid completely blowing it stay mindful of the following list. Learn more.

Article Summary:
  • If there's a sauce on it, ask for it on the side or bare.
  • Traditional Italian dining is a fairly healthy option.
  • International food can be very flavorful because of the spices used.

Sometimes you just have to go out to eat. Maybe you have a client dinner, date you are trying to impress, family get together or, something else.

As Layne Norton said in one Bodybuilding.com interview: "If you really want to eat clean or are nearing competition, bring your own food. Otherwise, choose wisely."

If You Really Want To Eat Clean Or Are Nearing Competition, Bring Your Own Food.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
If You Really Want To Eat Clean Or Are Nearing Competition,
Bring Your Own Food.

Finding Where To Eat

First and foremost, be proactive. Have a say in where you dine. Take a peek at www.healthydiningfinder.com if you are stumped and need ideas locally. And, look up the restaurant ahead of time to be certain they have at least a few healthy choices that you like.

Also, just because a Mediterranean diet often gets the health stamp of approval, there are both healthy foods and pitfalls with Mediterranean cuisine. So, take a look at the key words and best choices below and go into the restaurant of your choice already knowing what you want to eat.

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Key Words


If there’s a sauce on it, ask for it on the side or bare. Soy sauce and mustard are two that provide flavor and add nothing (except sodium). Foods cooked in high fat methods may include one of the following terms:

  • Alfredo
  • Au gratin
  • Basted
  • Battered
  • Breaded
  • Buttered
  • Chile relleno
  • Creamed
  • Crispy
  • Crunchy
  • Gravy
  • Hollandaise
  • Refried (beans)
  • Scalloped
  • Sweet and sour
  • Tempura


If you are opting for a sandwich or anything on bread, ask for it unbuttered since many places sneak butter in where it doesn’t belong.

Healthy Dining

Healthy Asian Dining:

  • Sushi
  • Miso
  • Better sauces include ponzu, rice-wine vinegar, wasabi, ginger, soy
  • Steamed brown rice
  • Steamed chicken (yes, they’ll do this for you)
  • Edamame
  • Seaweed salad
  • Cucumber salad
  • Be wary of fried anything, coconut milk, fried and crispy noodles on salads and other dishes. Also - get the sauce on the side and use it sparingly.

How Often Do You Eat Out?

Once a week.
Twice a week.
Three days a week.
Four days a week.
Five days a week.
Six days a week.
Seven days a week.
Lunches on work days.
Once every month or so.
Every meal of every day!

Healthy Greek Dining:

  • Hummus with vegetables
  • Lam or fish with steamed vegetables
  • Greek salad (okay if you get it without the cheese and put the dressing on the side; otherwise you could be eating a very high fat meal)
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Plain Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Pork or chicken souvlaki
  • Be wary of phyllo dough, baklava, falafel (it's fried), moussaka, spanakopita, dolmades, gyro (some are not so bad, others are loaded with fat and calories)

Healthy Indian Dining:

  • Lentil soup
  • Curried vegetables
  • Steamed brown rice
  • Tandoori chicken or fish
  • Chicken tikka
  • Salad
  • Be wary of fried foods, coconut based dishes, masala, ghee (clarified butter), and pakora.

Healthy Italian Dining:

  • Thin crust pizza loaded with vegetables
  • Choose red sauce over white sauce (a true Italian restaurant won’t add sugar to their red sauce)
  • Grilled calamari, other fish or chicken
  • Chicken marsala minus the sauce (the wine sauce typically has butter or oil added which adds up very quickly)

Traditional Italian dining is not only portion controlled but also fairly healthy - full of fish, vegetables (olives are a staple) and almonds.

However, American Italian is often heavy - loaded down with sauces and large portions. Be wary of cabonara, saltimbocca, parmigiana, manicotti and anything alfredo.

Healthy Mexican Dining:

  • Gazpacho
  • Fajitas (minus the sour cream) - you can ask that they go light on the oil as well
  • Grilled dishes
  • Salsa and picante are good options in finer Mexican restaurants where they are made from scratch. The jarred versions could be loaded with sugar.
  • Pico de gallo
  • Soft tacos made with beef or chicken
  • Chili rellenos (stuffed with spicy meat only, skip the cheese)
  • Poc chuc (grilled pork steak with vegetables)
  • Be wary of the chips placed on your table before your food is served. Before you know it you could have consumed 600 calories of partially hydrogenated oils and corn chips. Steer clear of the nachos, chimichangas, quesadillas and tamales.

Be Wary Of The Chips Placed On Your Table Before Your Food Is Served.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Be Wary Of The Chips Placed On Your Table Before Your Food Is Served.


International food can be very flavorful because of the herbs and spices used. But, it can also be very fattening. To avoid completely blowing it (unless you subscribe to the one cheat day of eating anything under the sun), stay mindful of the list above.

About the author:

Marie Spano is a leading authority on translating the latest nutrition and exercise science research into real life applications. Ms. Spano has also helped professional and Olympic athletes and Fortune 500 executives enhance their health and performance through sound nutrition practices. She is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding.com. For more information see: http://www.mariespano.com/.

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