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Ethnic Eating-Out Tips: Thai, Indian, and French

Fabulous foreign food doesn't have to be fattening
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Many of us already know how to navigate the menus at fast-food, family style, Mexican, and Italian restaurants but what about more exotic cuisines like Thai, French, and Indian?

Follow the tips below for healthy meals in these delicious ethnic restaurants.


This cuisine is growing in popularity, in part because of its reliance on vegetables and focus on healthy foods.

The foods and spices are aromatic, Asian, and easy to enjoy. Spicy dishes can be modified to suit your tastes while retaining flavors that are not familiar in most home kitchens.

Brown rice has found its way onto hip Thai restaurant menus across the country and is a great way to add more fiber to your meal.

Choose Avoid
Sauces: lemon grass, lime, curry, sweet and sour, basil, chili, fish sauce Dishes made with coconut or coconut milk
Stir-fried, sautéed, and braised dishes Sauces with peanuts
Thai salads Fried foods, including fried spring rolls
Basil rolls "Mee-krob" -- crispy noodles
Broth soups  
Any dish with lots of vegetables  
Bean thread noodles  
Seafood, tofu, poultry, lean meats  
"Satays" -- skewered meat


Indian curries resemble Thai food, and can be ordered to your desired degree of spiciness. Enjoy a serving of raita, a cucumber-and-yogurt side dish designed to balance the spiciness of Indian food.

Chutneys are blends of dried fruits and spices (with a texture similar to preserves) that often accessorize curries.

Choose Avoid
Basmati rice "Ghee" -- clarified butter
Legumes (chickpeas and lentils) "Molee" -- coconut milk or cream
Vegetable dishes Any kind of fried foods
Yogurt-based sauces High-fat beef and lamb dishes
Lean meats, poultry, and seafood Creamy curry sauce
Mulligatawny or lentil soup "Korma" -- cream sauce
"Papad" -- baked lentil wafer (Limit portions of coconut and nuts)
Tikki, tandoori, or kebab preparations  


A recent bestseller claims that "French Women Don't Get Fat," so you might assume theirs is a low-calorie cuisine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The portions may be smaller, but French foods tend to be high in fat and calories.

Simple is the best approach in French restaurants, as it is the sauces that are usually loaded with fats and calories.

Choose Avoid
Broth-based soups Cream soups
Plain vegetables Cream or cheese sauces: au gratin, hollandaise, béarnaise, béchamel
Vegetable salads with light vinegar-based dressing Caesar salads or any with creamy dressings
Wine or mustard sauces without cream Anything fried or seasoned with breadcrumbs
Roasted or grilled lean meats, poultry, and fish Pate, fatty meats, duck, and sausages

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