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Are you eating fit or fat?

Eating out doesn't have to be a diet disaster if you're ordering intelligently. Here's some food for thought…

Are you eating fit or fat?
Actress Momal Sheikh and a friend enjoy freshly blended juices at Green-O - a must-try during the sweltering summer ahead

Eating out doesn’t have to be a calorie-laden minefield. Restaurants all over town offer a wealth of delicious, nutritious choices that won’t hurt your waistline. There are plenty of outlets that appreciate that healthy eating isn’t just about calorie-counting – their menus include good fats, organic ingredients, high fibre elements and fresh natural whole foods. Most top restaurants offer low-carb options featuring steamed or grilled fish or chicken. Xander’s offers fresh juices including carrot and beetroot as well as healthy meals like homemade granola and egg-white omelets. Restaurants like Okra, Café Aylanto and Café Flo all offer diet-conscious choices on their menus. Just recently Espresso introduced a healthy menu. Even traditional desi venues offer wholesome options, ranging from steamed meats to simple channa chaat.

Then there are those restaurants and cafes that go that extra mile, whose main focus is healthy eating. The oldest of these is undoubtedly N’ecos Natural Store and Café. Part of the Hobnob group, N’ecos is part deli, part organic store and part café. With a focus on organic and seasonal produce, N’ecos menu features the likes of whole wheat waffles and organic multi-grain naan. They also offer some of the most interesting vegan and vegetarian options in town. N’ecos, however, also offers plenty of foods that will tip the scales for you! From loaded burgers to desserts like chocolate indulgence, the menu is a temptation for weak-willed foodies. Although the waiters helpfully offer low-cal versions of various items, there are too many indulgent baked goodies on display.

While N’ecos offers some of the purest organic food available in town, it’s not necessarily the best spot for those who want to watch their weight. For a totally guilt-free meal out, two new additions to the Karachi scene are a much better bet. Both EatFit and the recently opened Pure Health Café focus on light, fresh seasonal food and both offer calorie counts for everything on their menus. The only dessert on either menu is fresh or frozen seasonal fruit yoghurt or fresh fruit so there’s no danger of the pain of watching your fellow diners scoff a brownie sundae.

EatFit aims to offer an alternative to the chemical laden, processed fast food that is generally available. Open daily from10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for takeaway/delivery only, their menu varies according to the day of the week. There is a different soup every day and plenty of variety in their menu, offering desi, western and eastern tastes in the form of salads, wraps and sandwiches. Highlights on the menu include chicken lettuce cups, spicy channa with baked wholewheat papri and the Thai chicken wrap. Most of their wholewheat wraps come in at under 200 calories and yet are sizeable enough to be filling. Their beef jalapeno burger, at 390 calories, is the most calorific item on a menu that is packed with fresh flavours. Pure Health Café is an international franchise that has a similar premise to EatFit but opens early enough for breakfast and stays open till late.

Moreover, while EatFit only offers delivery or takeways, Pure Health is a proper café with a contemporary ambience. The menu is also more extensive than EatFit, with a variety of soups and a selection of egg-white omelets supplementing the salads, sandwiches and wraps. They also offer paninis, smoothies and fresh juices. The Paninis are welcome for those who prefer hot meals but don’t want to pile on the calories. Pure Health doesn’t serve any fizzy drinks but their juices are freshly made on-site using only fresh fruit rather than the mixes that some franchises use. Their fresh fruit cocktails include a ‘cholesterol-reducing’ mix of ginger, carrot and apple juice and an ‘antioxidant’ mix of apple, orange and celery juice. Both are delicious, with neither the ginger nor the celery overpowering the fruitiness of the cocktail. Those choosing to add wheatgrass to their juices should be warned though – it has the tendency to overpower everything it touches.

For those wanting just juices, Green-O at The Place in Defence is another great choice. Green-O also offers wheatgrass along with a mind-boggling range of fresh juices, smoothies and juice cocktails. Green-O’s juices are a great, nutritious alternative to designer coffees and snacks but choose your blends with care – many use honey as a sweetener and pack quite a calorific punch.2013-11-16-chk-lettuce-cups

Healthy cafes aren’t the only option if you’re trying to improve your eating habits. Top-end supermarkets also now offer pre-packaged sandwiches and salads. A range of salads by Evergreen can be found at Agha’s, including Caesar salad, Asian salad and Chicken Fajita salad. N’ecos also supplies prepackaged salads to Agha’s. Hyperstar offers a choice of salads, which are great as long as you steer away from the mayonnaise-laden selections. And while there are some interesting salads available, the sandwich selections at most supermarkets are bland at best. If you’re too far from an option like Pure Health or EatFit for a weekday visit, Subway is not a bad fast-food option.

Another healthy choice is channa chaat, street food that’s available all over town. Don’t even think about bhelpuri or paani puri, both of which include plenty of crisp, fried components. Opt instead for channa chaat, which is low in fat and includes enough protein and nutrients to keep you fuller for longer. Healthy eating is all about making the right choices. Habits like opting for sauces on the side, getting your portion control right and learning to indulge sparingly are all key. Eating smart doesn’t have to be flavourless or boring – and with more healthy options available every day, eating out needn’t be a struggle when you’re trying to shape up.

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