Eating out is a social norm the world over, and Malaysia is no different. From casual work meetings, to special occasions or family celebrations, restaurants have always been a preferred venue. While sharing food in good company is enjoyable, it can have an undesirable impact on our digestion when you indulge in unhealthy eating habits. However, this can easily be avoided; dining out healthy can be as easy as 1, 2, 3 - balance, moderation and variety.
Balance – get all your daily nutrients
While we are well aware that running on an empty stomach can be unsettling, imbalanced meals are also a common cause of gastric issues. To avoid this when eating out, try to include as much from all five major food groups such as fruits, vegetables, cereals/wholegrains, legumes/nuts/meat/fish, and dairy or alternatives. Additionally, some well-known gut-healthy foods and drinks to ease digestion include kimchi, acar, tempeh, lassi and kombucha.
Moderation – go easy on those portions
When you eat out, moderation can tend to go out the window when you're in the company of friends and family, especially if you skip meals, after which you tend to overeat when those hunger pangs strike. While it's good to be satisfied after your meals, nobody likes to feel bloated. It is good to eat throughout the day, but in moderate quantities so as to prevent unwelcome gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia and peptic ulcers.
Variety – let your taste buds wander
If you're one to eat out often, a spread of various healthy cuisines can offer different types of nutrients. The more diverse your meals, the less likely you are to be nutritionally deficient. Not only is this better for digestion, but also is the perfect chance to let your taste buds explore. If you're in the mood for Malay food, try smaller portions of Nasi Ulam or tempoyak with less salt. Or if you fancy some Chinese food, steamed veggies or Congee (rice porridge) are good picks. As for Indian dishes, smaller portions of banana leaf rice and veggies, chapati or thosai (without ghee) are best.
Eat better, feel better
If finding your fix from the ready-to-order menu is next to impossible, customise your order with the wait staff. Just remember to keep the oil, sugar, salt and spice levels low. We know that Malaysians are fond of spicy food, but too much of it can have a gut-busting impact. By eating out the right way, you can indulge in a hearty meal by choosing foods that won't take a toll on your digestive health. It's all about balance, moderation and variety, to steer clear of the groans from an unhappy stomach the next day.