Eating out can be part of a healthy lifestyle. There is no need to skip a night out with family and friends or watch everybody else enjoy their meal whilst you’re worrying about your health. Here are our top tips to ensure you can experience the pleasures of dining out whilst making healthy choices at the same time!
Choose foods that are low in fat
Particularly nasty saturated fat, which can wreak havoc on your health. You can do this by steering clear of excess butter, cream or cheese, pastries, deep-fried and battered foods. Try to avoid desserts high in sugar as well (but once in a while won’t hurt!).
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential, including legumes like lentils, chickpeas and beans. Overall, aim for half of your plate to be vegetables. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide good quality carbohydrates and loads of fibre, which supports a healthy digestive system and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Opt for wholegrain bread, pasta or rice instead of their refined counterparts.
Stick to the waters
A common pitfall of eating out is ordering drinks other than water, as they often contain too much energy and added sugar. Stick to plain water as much as you can, or even ask your waiter to add some fresh lemon or lime juice for variety. Remember that alcohol should be limited, but a drink or two can be enjoyed once or twice a week.
Keep an eye on portions
Portion control is essential to maintaining health; choose entrée sizes instead of a main and order a side of salad or vegetables to fill you up and keep you satisfied. Ask for dressing or sauces on the side so you can control the amount you eat.
Generally speaking, the clearer the sauce, the better
Always opt for tomato-based rather than cream-based sauces; if eating at an Italian restaurant you could choose Marinara rather than Alfredo, or if Thai takes your fancy, choose a stir fry flavoured with Chili-jam or Oyster sauce instead of Massaman or Panang curries which are loaded with coconut milk.
How is it cooked?
Try to avoid foods that are deep fried or battered (hint: watch for descriptions like ‘pan-fried’ or ‘crispy’) and instead pick those which are grilled, steamed or baked. Perhaps go for steamed fish fillets instead of whole-fried fish if dining at an Asian restaurant, or choose grilled chicken breast instead of chicken schnitzel at other eateries. If you are unsure about how a meal is prepared or what is included, just ask! When choosing meats, pick lean cuts if you can – avoid pork belly and fatty lamb or pork chops, swap chicken thighs for skinless chicken breast and trim off any visible fat before you eat it.
The more veg, the merrier!
If you’re out for breakfast, skip the pancakes, hash browns and pastries and instead choose a veggie omelette with wholemeal toast or plain oatmeal and load up on healthy sides (think roasted tomato, grilled mushrooms or fruit salad!).
It can be tricky to know what the best option is when eating out, but remember that making healthy decisions and learning what is best for your health is a life long journey. Keep practicing, be consistent and pay close attention to food choices and serving sizes.
You can download our Hit 100 -Takeaway: Healthier Choices guide for more information. This guide steps you through the preferred and not so good meal choices for a range of different cuisines.
This article was kindly written by Melissa Meier, who is a student Dietitian at The University of Sydney.