A bit on your sides?

Barbara Wilson
Nutritionist

Whether you’re eating in or out, getting a take-away or starting from scratch, it’s more than likely that you’ll have a bit on the side. A side order, accompaniment, something to add a bit of life to your meal. A piece of steak on its own could be pretty dull.

Adding chips, sautéed mushrooms and onions and a serving of black pepper sauce makes for a slightly more interesting meal. Garlic bread and Caesar salad can really make that Italian meal something special.

And an Indian meal without naan bread, pakora and bhaji, not to mention the raita, dahl and pilau rice, just doesn’t hit the spot for me.

It’s all very well taking a bit of time, remembering your healthy eating tips and choosing your main meal wisely, but don’t let it stop there. There’s more to a meal than a main course and side orders can really damage your diet.

You know that you should go for a baked potato or salad instead of chips, but will it really make that much difference? Well, yes - it’ll make around 200 calories of difference.

Have grilled tomatoes instead of the buttered mushrooms and onions and you’ll be saving yourself another 100 calories or so. And a bowl of tossed salad with a low fat or fat free dressing is only going to give you 30 or 40 calories.

So simply by having a baked potato, tomatoes and salad instead of chips and fried onions and mushrooms, you can save yourself a massive 300 calories. Ok, so maybe it doesn’t sound that massive but if your daily calorie requirement is only 1400, 300 calories is a fair amount to be saving at one meal simply by making clever choices.

Now, what about that special Italian meal? Enjoy your pasta or pizza by all means, but by leaving out the garlic bread you can save yourself around 150 calories, lots more if you can resist the super-cheesey version. Putting the Caesar salad on hold will save you anything up to 300 calories, depending on the dressing and how generous they are with the Parmesan.

Side orders in an Indian restaurant can also be diet disasters. A filled bread, such as Peshawari naan or Paratha, has between 200 and 300 calories more than a plain naan. Pilau rice has around 140 calories more than the same sized portion of boiled rice while passing on the pakora and bhaji will save you another 200 calories or so. There’s over 600 calories saved!

But you don’t have to miss out - enjoy papadums and chapati with the fabulous selection of chutneys and relishes and you certainly won’t feel deprived.

The same holds true for Chinese food – avoid the prawn crackers, fried rice, spring rolls and won tons and you can enjoy the culinary delights of Cantonese cooking without the excess calories.

So next time you’re thinking of dinner, take your time over your side dish decisions – they can have as big an impact on your calorie budget than the main dish itself. You know that a spoonful of yoghurt is a better way to top your tortilla than soured cream.

And you don’t really need that piece of bacon or slice of cheese in your burger, so pass. Enjoy your meal and enjoy knowing that you made the right choices. Guilt-free feasting is the way forward!

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.