How to Eat Out and Still Make Healthy Choices

Although taking care of your diet and nutrition wellness is easy at home, you face far more difficult choices when eating out. Without realising, you end up consuming more saturated fat, salt and sugar, as well as a much bigger portion than you would usually make for yourself. This is fine if you only eat out on special occasions, but as more and more of us are eating out more often, you may be putting your wellbeing at risk unless you start to think about healthier choices.


1. Food swaps: This is a very simple tip; swap unhealthy choices for healthier ones. Instead of indulging in pies, bacon or sausages, go for pulses, skinless chicken, fish or lean meats like ham. Creamy and cheesy sauces can be replaced with those based on tomatoes and other vegetables, while baked or boiled potatoes (with no added salt or butter) are better options than chips or mash. Substitute cakes, ice cream and creamy desserts with fruit salads, sorbets and low-fat yoghurts and, if you’re ordering takeaway, opt for steamed or boiled rice over fried rice. Finally, ask for your vegetables and salads to be served plain, or request salad dressing on the side, so you can add only as much as you need.


2. Menu methods: These days, a lot of restaurants and cafes will highlight their healthier options on the menu, but they don’t always explain why these are the best choices. There’s no shame in asking for more information if you don’t understand why an item is healthier, or if you’re trying to choose between two items. If you’re on a calorie-controlled diet, there are plenty of menus that have the calories of each item included, so you can keep track of how many calories you’re eating. Remember, for a healthy diet you need 2,000 calories a day if you’re a woman, and an average man needs around 2,500 calories daily.


3. Just ask: You may not like to bother the nice waiting staff, but chances are they’ll be happy to help – plus, we’re talking about your wellbeing here. You can ask for salt not to be added to your meal during cooking or preparation, or turn down the offer of pre-meal bread and nibbles (it’s far better to eat your healthy, chosen meal than to fill up on unnecessary carbs – or eat both!). Ordering dishes to share can ensure you get a variety of foods with your meal, but ordering too many can undo this healthy step so get the waiter to recommend a number of dishes to order. You should also check that your meal comes with vegetables, and, if it doesn’t, order some or a salad as a side dish. Don’t forget to get a jug of water for the table!


4. Picking puddings: You shouldn’t order a pudding until after you’ve finished your main course, as you may find you’re too full to enjoy one. However, there are healthy options available if you would like something sweet. Obviously, fruit is a good choice, even if it is baked into puddings, such as rhubarb crumble. Although fruit on its own is better for you, fruit-based desserts still count towards your five-a-day, so these are better choices than puddings with cream or chocolate fillings. A lot of desserts come with cream or ice cream on the side, but this is a load of calories and saturated fat that you just don’t need. Just enjoy your pudding on its own, or ask the staff if you can have a sorbet, low-fat yoghurt, fruit purée, or custard made with lower-fat milk.

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