As angelic as a meal at a vegetarian restaurant might seem, you might not be taking in healthier grub. That’s because many kinds of these meatless options are either covered in oily batter or drenched in thick sauces. Even deep-fried vegetables can be disastrous to your waistline, so avoid them, says nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar. Before ordering a dish with sauce, know what goes into the concoction, she advises. “Seaweed sauce-based dishes are generally acceptable.” Stay away from the cornflour-thickened varieties.
Those dishes of vegetarian meat can masquerade as the real deal convincingly well, but they can be “shockingly high in fats and sodium”, says Majmudar. Just compare an equal portion of vegetarian roast duck to real duck – according to the Health Promotion Board, the former contains up to 100 more calories, 12g more fat and 555mg more sodium! “There is very little nutritional value in mock meat because they’re so highly processed,” she says. Even though mock meats are made of gluten and soy protein, they’re put through such high temperatures and pressures to bring about a meaty texture that most health benefits of the original ingredients are lost. A simple rule of thumb Majmudar offers: Avoid foods that cannot be identified from their natural state – the simplest rule of good health.
Go for steamed varieties of foods when you’re dining at a vegetarian restaurant (even boiling leaches vitamins from vegetables). “Because direct heat is not used on the vegetables, more vitamins are preserved,” says Majmudar. Get a variety of foods like tofu, mushrooms, lentils, beans (for protein) and unrefined grains like brown rice for the best nutritional kick, she says. Also if you’re looking to ditch meat and head down the vegetarian road, it’s advisable to consume more B complex vitamins that are less prevalent in such a diet. Eat more mushrooms, miso, azuki, wholegrains and supplement with a multi-vitamin for additional nutritional support, she advises.