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By Radka Slovackova

Enjoying a great meal at the world’s best restaurants does not equal overeating, days of fasting or a belly like a happy buddha statue. At least not always.

Many of my health-conscious and weight watching friends, often quiz me on how I maintain so fit when dining out almost daily. If you are like them, then fasten your belt and read my on tips how to have fun with your food, while staying skinny.

Asking the waiting staff the right questions is the big deal that decides everything. The service at Michelin-type restaurants is highly trained and knows the menu inside-out. Then, ordering an olive oil instead of butter can change the nature of the feast.

The size of portions differs tremendously. The starters are not always smaller than mains, so ask. If they fit on a small plate, then get two appetizers. If not, inquire which of the dishes are lighter – steamed, broiled or grilled, and finally select.

Some famous historic restaurants, like La Tour d’Argent in Paris make every plate count serving granny-style overflowing plates based on rich creamy sauces.

La Tour d'Argent - creamy!
La Tour d’Argent – creamy!

The other caveat is the american way to serve sides worth a main course or a 16 ounce flank of a steak. These are rarely Michelin stared restaurants although might still be fancy. Most of the previous usually serve smaller plates.

The new breed of contemporary experimental chefs of Alex Atala’s fame at his D.O.M. in Sao Paulo, will treat you with ants. Brazil’s most coveted chef, Atala, indeed offers a tiny pair of crunchy ants on a bed of pineapple. Full of protein and ultra-low in calories, but do we really want to eat ants at restaurants? Trying it is an adventure, but becoming a bug connoisseur is another thing.

Ants by Chef Atala at D.O.M.

There is more to his culinary approach, as one of the healthy-minded chefs, he creates lighter menus based on natural ingredients served in tasting portions. And this is what you should look for in a chef, if you want to stay trim.

In France, Michel Guérard caters to spa-type foodies with three Michelin stars chipped on his spoon. At his light-minded menu the cream is substituted by egg whites whipped with vanilla and sugar, tasting even more sublime than the heavy cream. His book “Cuisine Minceur” (Slimming Cuisine) was groundbreaking in the healthy gastronomy field.

Cuisine Minceur - simply delish!
Cuisine Minceur – simply delish!

A number of plates can be surprising as well. Pierre Gagniare, the best chef in Paris according to many insiders, creates a feast, as each one of his courses consists of several plates (five-six is his staple). Avoid restaurants like this and rather go for straight-shooters serving one dish in one course.

Pierre Gagniare - preparing a feast
Pierre Gagniare – preparing a feast

Some restaurants offer daily changing set tasting menus only. These can be the worst catch for your waist. Nevertheless, dietary restrictions and allergies are being increasingly catered to, thus raising a brilliant opportunity for a conscious eater to get his meal adjusted to his/her liking. In this environment, why would you make up a little allergy to red meat or cheese? Do not forget to inform your table companions beforehand though as someone can spoil your fitness order and embarrass you in front of the restaurant.

Starting with aperitifs is highly encouraged at most high-end locations, but it does not mean that you could not start with a glass of water and rather share a bottle with others. Wine by the glass is a nice thing, but many restaurants serve too large amount, leading to a higher consumption of alcohol. Cocktails are a Sodom of calories. Similarly juices should be a part of your breakfast table and not to accompany a savory dinner meal.

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Bread comes next. An irresistible basket full of various buns, sticks and fluffy rolls arrives at your table, plus it smells heavenly, as if your granny just baked it. Peak at it, choose one, and then let them just take it as far away as your sight goes.

Desserts are generally less sweet than about 50 years ago, but it is rarely true in Asia, with Japan as a striking exception. The latter is keen on small, less sweet desserts. Like at Kichisen in Kyoto of the three star master chef Yoshimi Tanigawa. In the West go for fruit-based desserts. The French chef Jacques Chibois in the perfume capital of Grasse, uses seasonal local fruits in his sublime sweets.

Fruit dessert at Bastide St Antione
Fruit dessert at Bastide St Antione

Mindfulness while eating has been linked to lower consumption and more pleasure from food. It is not just about eating in a turtle pace, but also about letting your brain be entertained by each dish. In Singapore the chef Andre Chiang makes you contemplate his gastronomic philosophy behind each dish in his Octaphilosophie concept. This profound experience won him a starry spot in the San Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants and other awards, so it is worth savoring.

Restaurant Andre
Restaurant Andre

Following my tips, stepping on a scale the next morning after your gourmet indulgence, will not look as if someone put a giant stone in your pocket. If you are a birdie eater though, you might see some small increase in your weight. It is just temporary and getting back to your usual habits without cutting on your normal stuff will set everything back in a day or two.

Enjoy your meal!

Radka xx

 

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