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How to Eat Out Low-Carb

Mediterranean, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican Restaurants

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Mediterranean food is renowned for its nutritional value.

When it comes to dining out, Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Mexican restaurants are popular destinations. In this section, we'll tell you how to enjoy the offerings at these eateries while keeping your carbs in check.

Low-Carb Italian Food

When dining a la Italiano, the bread basket and huge servings of pasta are the bad guys. As we've already pointed out, foods made from refined white flour are quickly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. But how often do you go to an Italian restaurant and eat just plain bread and pasta? Remember, carbohydrate-based foods that are eaten in combination with protein or fat enter the bloodstream more slowly.


If you're in the mood for pasta, first ask if the restaurant serves the whole-wheat variety. This could be a long shot, but if you're dining in an urban area or more upscale restaurant, you're more likely to find this option. If not, select a protein-based entree, preferably chicken or fish; grilled, sauted, or steamed vegetables; and a salad and a small side order of pasta. Stick to olive oil or tomato-based sauces, and skip the cream/butter/cheese-based types. You'll satisfy your craving for pasta without overdoing it and round out the meal with heart-healthy protein and lots of antioxidants and fiber.

Low-Carb Mediterranean Food

Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and France (particularly the southern region) have long been studied by nutrition researchers. That's because these countries boast a cuisine that some say is unrivaled in its nutritional superiority. The diet is rich in olive oil, vegetables, and herbs, and it uses only the freshest ingredients prepared as simply as possible.

This diet baffles many Americans, though, because of its high fat content. How can a diet that is close to 40 percent fat produce such good health and longevity and have a reputation for causing fewer heart attacks? The secret is that much of the fat in the Mediterranean diet comes from high-quality, heart-healthy olive oil.

The cuisine also includes fish, rice and other whole grains, hearty breads, olives, small amounts of cheese, nuts, and red wine, as well as fruit for dessert. The low-stress environment, the importance of gathering with family and friends to enjoy meals, and the reverence for food have also been noted as contributing factors in the good health of people in this region. It's possible that it's the combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Mediterranean lifestyle that promotes good health. Something for all of us to consider!

Low-Carb Mexican Food

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Vegetarian burritos now are an option at many Mexican establishments.

Even though most Mexican restaurants serve white rice, the combination of rice and beans is an unbeatable protein source that is blood sugar friendly. Many restaurants now serve vegetarian refried beans, so if they're available, go for that option to eliminate cholesterol and saturated fat. Healthy carb choices are veggie burritos and chicken, steak, shrimp, or veggie tacos or fajitas (ask for corn tortillas and order the sour cream on the side).

The bottomless tortilla chip basket found at every Mexican restaurant is best left untouched. Better yet, ask the waitstaff to remove it unless you can limit yourself to a handful of chips. These restaurants are notorious for offering cheese-smothered dishes, many of which have first been deep-fried: low carb yes, heart healthy no!

Low-Carb Middle Eastern Food

Middle Eastern restaurants are another wonderful choice for enjoying healthy carbohydrates prepared in the most delectable ways. These restaurants serve lots of beans (legumes) and whole grains such as bulgur and couscous. Lentils often stand in as the main protein in a meal, pushing meat to the side of the plate.

Tangy hummus spread (a dip made from garbanzo beans, garlic, olive oil, and sesame paste), tabbouleh (bulgur wheat mixed with tomatoes, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice), chilled yogurt soup, and rice dishes are just a few of the menu options that fit the carbohydrate profile you're looking for. Food from the Middle East also has a high fiber content, including lots of vegetables and grains that make it extremely filling. The bonus to you? You'll eat smaller portions, leave feeling more than satisfied, and have scrumptious leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

So whether you like Middle Eastern restuarants or your tastes lean toward good old American, there are carb-friendly choices everywhere. You simply need to know how to navigate the menus.

©Publications International, Ltd.