Eating out can sometimes be a bit tricky when trying to make healthy food choices. You don’t always know exactly what’s in the meals or how they are cooked, and they usually contain more saturated fat, salt and sugar than you realise. Trying to be healthy and watching what you eat however, does not mean the end of eating out. Although some restaurants now have a variety of healthy options to choose from, there are still several tips you can follow to eat out a little healthier in those that do not. No matter where you choose to go and eat, or what cuisine, there are always ways to make the healthiest choices.
When looking at the menu, there are a few general things to keep in mind:
• Looking at the wording used to describe the meal is a good place to start. Options such as breaded, batter-dipped and tempura are all fried, which are heavy in fat. Instead look for lower fat options such as grilled, broiled, flame cooked, poached, and steamed.
• Avoid foods like croissants, pies, quiches and pastries. These are made with butter and are high in saturated fat, also known as the “bad” fat.
• When it comes to sauces, try and stay away from butter and cream sauces like béarnaise and hollandaise. Instead choose wine or stock-based sauces. If you are not sure what kind of sauce it is, you can always ask your waiter!
• If choosing a salad, try to go for ones with dark greens like spinach, rocket, watercress, or romaine. These have more nutrients than a lighter lettuce like iceberg. The darker the
• If your meal comes with a side of fries or mashed potatoes ask to have a baked potato, side salad or steamed vegetables instead.
• For starters, choose steamed dumplings or hot and sour soup instead of deep-fried dishes like fried wontons, spring rolls, breaded prawns, prawn crackers and prawn toast.
• Avoid sweet and sour choices, crispy beef and lemon chicken. The meats in these are usually battered and then deep fried, so choosing dishes with meats that are stir fried with vegetables are healthier options.
• Choose steamed rice or plain noodles rather than fried rice. Yes, you guessed it, it’s FRIED!
• The Indian cooking fat, ghee, and coconut oil are both very high in saturated fat and are both commonly used in Indian cooking. Dishes that include the words korma, masala and malai are typically prepared with cream or coconut milk and are therefore high in saturated fat. Choose dishes such as tandoori and bhuna, spinach based “saag” dishes, and chicken or beef tikka as these are lower in saturated fat.
• Most rice dishes like pilau, biryani and fried rice should be replaced with plain boiled rice.
• Avoid any breads made with fat such as peshwari, paratha and puris. Instead choose baked breads such as chapatti, roti or plain naan bread.
• If you decide to go for pasta, choose a tomato-based sauce like an arrabbiata, instead of a creamy cheese sauce or pesto. Parmesan cheese is actually also very high in fat, so try to
sprinkle just a small amount for flavour. A little can actually go quite a long way!
• For pizza toppings, avoid high fat meats like chorizo, salami, or pepperoni. Choose vegetable toppings, ham, chicken or tuna, and don’t go for the extra cheese.
• Instead of garlic bread opt for bread sticks or plain crusty bread.
• Have a nice mixed side salad or one to share alongside your meal.
And finally Pub Grub, Fish and Chips, and Cafes:
• If you decide to go for chips, choose thick-cut ones rather than thin fries because they absorb less fat.
• When having Fish and Chips, choose fish coated in breadcrumbs rather than batter if there is an option. Anything that is battered will soak up more fat when frying than if breaded.
• Soups can be a great choice when they are home-made (by the restaurant/café). Vegetable based soups are not only lower in fat than cream based soups (cream of mushroom, cream of chicken), but they also count towards your five a day. A chunky vegetable soup with a wholemeal bread roll can make a healthy filling meal.
• Have a jacket potato (without butter) and fill it with baked beans, vegetable chilli, cottage cheese or tuna and have it with a side salad. Watch out for tuna and chicken salads made with mayonnaise, coleslaw and too much cheddar cheese.
• Instead of having a beef burger that can be quite high in saturated fat, have a grilled chicken, fish or vegetarian burger instead.
• Always ask for any dressings and sauces on the side, so you can limit how much is used.
There are obviously plenty of other options available and many different restaurants out there, but these are some of the main things to think about and some of the more simple choices you can make to make your meal a little bit healthier. It’s not always easy to make eating out as healthy as if you made it yourself, but being more aware of what ingredients are used and how your meal is prepared can help you make the right choices to cutting back on some calories when eating out.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay well!