The Positive Side of Medicine

Holistic Tips to Make Eating Out Healthy

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By: Marina Solovyov

Healthy people always say its better to make food at home. Its cheaper, healthier, and if you can cook, its tastier. Cooking your own food also gives you better control of whats going into your body. I agree with all of this.

As a health coach and graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I acknowledge that it is important to make room for home made meals. Preparing your own food ensures that quality ingredients and LOVE will go into your meal. No matter how skilled a chef is, it is unlikely s/he will prepare it with love.

Did you know that Love is one of the most important ingredients in cooking for good health ?

Zen meal made with love by Marina

However, sometimes its just more fun and convenient to eat out, especially if you live in Tokyoone of the world’s best food cities.

Thai Mango Cafe Shibuya Lumine
Traditional Japanese Restaurant Ebisu Tokyo

Looks great, right?

I initially felt a little ashamed of my recent desire to eat out. I could list off excuses why my not cooking is justified:

I am working a full time job. I am busy starting a new business. My partner is always traveling on business (its no fun to cook for one). Currently, I am researching healthy restaurants in Tokyo. I will be contributing a food related article to one of my favorite adventure travel sites GoNOMAD.com.

Yet, the real truth lies somewhere in between being a little lazy and wanting someone to cook for me. It feels nice to be served and taken care of.

As a health coach I celebrate imperfections and don’t like to box myself into being any one way. Especially with regards to food. I believe it is important to honor emotions, even if that means breaking your own rules sometimes. That is how I got to where I am today.

Thus, at least for now, I am not going to beat myself up for not cooking. If you are in a similar situation or eat out as a lifestyle, below are some tips to make it as healthy, exciting, and affordable as possible.

 Tip #1 Get to know your supplier

You don’t need to become best friends (although this might get you the tastiest serving). Its a good habit to know where your ingredients come from. Local ingredients are the freshest, most delicious, and if you buy local, you can feel good about helping sustain a small business.

 Tip #2. Eat Delicious Foods. Mostly Vegetables

Often when I buy obentos ( Japanese lunch boxes) I choose options filled 70% with vegetables and the rest is made up of fish, tempura, or some other yummies.

Natural Vegetables Almost 100% Japanese Vegetables – Salad Bar Atre

Most people don’t consider vegetables delicious. The next time you are out for breakfast or lunch, I challenge you to order the item with the most vegetables. Contrary to what many people believe, vegetables are very satisfying. If you have had a bad experience with vegetables, it might be because you ate them out of season, from a can, or didn’t prepare them right. With vegetables, quality is the most important point to consider.

Mung Bean Daikon Sprouts Tomatoes Carrots Mitsuba

Think of vegetables like tofu. They can adapt to whatever spices and sauces you enjoy. Last night, I ordered steamed cabbage with shirashi (little fish). It  was lightly tossed and stir-fried in olive oil, garlic, and other Italian spices. Friends around me checked out my order in horror. Yet soon, everyone was digging in. Why? Because it tasted familiar and good!

Cabbage Shirashi stir-fried in Garlic Olive Oil, Ebisu Fish Center - Food from HokkaidoCabbage Shirashi stir-fried in Garlic Olive Oil

P.S Cabbage is one of the most nutritious superfoods in the world. If you juice it, it is a powerful nutrient used for curing diseases as tough as cancer.

If you feel stressed at work, have trouble sleeping, suffer from anxiety attacks, or want to balance your life, vegetables are the SECRET. Spread the word.

 Tip #3 Lunch Time – Make it Your Staple Meal

Traditional Japanese Lunch Set Grilled Salmon Hijiki with Soy Beans Red Miso Soup Grated Daikon – 1200 yen Atre Ebsiu

Lunch time is the best time to buy delicious quality food at the best price. Also, the middle of the day is the time your body needs the most food, just dont overdo it.

I realize that many people feel tired after eating big meals. I recall interning in Spain a few years ago. During lunchtime, all my team members got together for a huge sit down MENÚ DEL DÍA. For around $10, it was possible to order a delicious set that included an appetizer, salad, drink, entrée, and a small dessert.

While both delicious and nutritious, that much food at once is too much. The most common reaction after lunchtime was always a heavy groan of fullness followed by a feeling of laziness. To this I say ” Doggy Bag it”!

Even in a country like Japan, where taking food out of a restaurant is taboo, we still have the option of buying a take out lunch (obento). If your favorite lunch spot doesn’t allow you to take out left overs, see if you can order and leave.

Eat only until you are full, save the rest for later. It will save you money on dinner and keep your waistline in check. Also, chew your food, don’t swallow it. Huge secret to weightless is how well your body digests food.

Tip #4 Stick to Natural Flavors

” If your grandmother wouldn’t be able to recognize it, then neither will your stomach”.

BIO Lunch Set 900 Yen Hijiki Miso Wakame Soup Kabocha Pumpkin Carrots Tsukemono Beans Genmai Brown Rice

This is a healthy website so I’m never going to advise eating out at MCDonald’s, Wendy’s, or KFC. uuhuhh … (shakes her head).  The closest I will get to that is occasionally nibbling on some of Chihiro’s ramen, but that’s just to keep the food peace.

This is "Healthy" Japanese Pesto Flavored Ramen

If you want to eat out but still feel like you are eating clean, I advise eating at a place that cares about value, ingredients, and quality.

There are now plenty of restaurants that cater to raw, vegan, vegetarian, organic, and pescetarian lifestyles. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients and flavors. Chefs have been trained to make whatever you order taste good and your spending money. You might as well have fun and try something new. I like to make eating out food educational experiences.

Mixed Grain Rice, Tomato Basil Raw Curry Meal from Manna Daikanyama
900 Yen Lunchtime Meguro Tuna Don at Daikanyama Peacock Grocery Store, Zagat Reviewed


Spend a little more money on lunch. This way you will enjoy high quality food each day. You will feel satisfied for the rest of the day.

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Marina Solovyov graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is now a holistic health coach based in Tokyo, Japan. She writes about Japanese cooking, traditions, and recipes on her website Marina’s Tokyo Cafe.

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