healthy dining out

There are is a valid reason why many who try their hardest to stay on top of their weight management goals, dread dining out. Food prepared for us in the shops and restaurants will have hidden calories, added salt, fat and sugar, so, of course it is a lot easier to control our food intake at home.

But, it does not need to be too difficult when we are eating out. It should remain a fun and pleasurable experience, with a little know-how…

First rule is – do not starve yourself prior to your meal out thinking if you eat too much at the restaurant that it will somehow even out. We, of course, think about calories.

The reality could not be further from the truth. Not because calories do not entirely matter, but because there are other factors in play.

Hungry tummy will lower your blood sugar levels and leave you with no will power to make wise choices.

Great strategy is to check out restaurant menu beforehand and decide what to order as more and more companies are putting their menus online. 

Choose meals that comply with MEAL BALANCE – healthy carbohydrates combined with healthy fats and lean/ plant protein!

Once at the restaurant, here are some useful tips:

  • Swap pie dishes or meals with bacon and sausages for healthier lean protein options such as chicken or fish (not fried) 
  • Swap creamy, cheesy or “chef special” sauces for sauces that are tomato or vegetable based and make sure you do not overdo them either!
  • Swap regular potato or chips for sweet potato
  • Swap white or deep fried rice for plain wild or brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans or sweet potato
  • Swap any dessert with a fruit salad or yoghurt based dessert, share it with a friend or skip it all together 
  • Swap fried vegetables with steamed vegetables, served plain
  • Swap alcohol or fizzy drink with a glass of sparkling or still water with a slice of lemon
  • Ask for sauce on the side if ordering a salad so you can be in control of how much you put on
  • Ask for salt not to be added to your meal during meal preparation
  • Try not to order too much, stick to the main meal or two starters… you can always order more if still hungry
  • Do not be tempted by oversized dishes because they are a better value
  • Ask for a bread basket to be taken away or moved away from you
  • Instead of side order of carbs, order vegetables: steamed or as salad

Here are some tips if you are buying lunch on the go:

  • Ideally, avoid sandwiches, but if you must – choose brown or wholemeal bread.
  • Avoid cheese and deli meats in your sandwiches, except lower fat cheese like buffalo mozzarella 
  • Choose sandwiches with lean meat and lots of vegetables. Best fillings are chicken, turkey, tuna, boiled eggs, avocado, vegetables…
  • Choose salads with dressing on the side and without oil or mayonnaise.
  • Avoid carb based salads like pasta, potato, rice or couscous salads
  • Avoid meal deals that include fizzy drink and crisps or chocolate… have water and a piece of fruit instead
  • Choose healthier fillings for your baked potato like tuna & sweet corn or cottage cheese and avoid cheese toppings or adding butter
  • Choose vegetable soups without added carbs, but know that they could be loaded with salt and fat.
  • Swap your take away coffee with herbal teas

Food Labels

If you are buying pre-packaged meals, always check the labels, especially excess salt and fat:

  • Keep SALT below 0.3 gr and below (per 100 gr)
  • Seek foods with at least 15 gr of PROTEIN per 100 gr (or more)
  • Keep SUGAR below 5 gr per 100 gr.
  • Keep FAT below 3 gr per 100 gr

If dining out at the restaurant, of course that each cuisine will have their healthier alternatives, so we could easily have a list of tips for each type of restaurant, but some of the above tips are universal and good enough for you to stay in control wherever you dine.

More important thing is to go out armed with great attitude that you will enjoy time spent with friends and/ or family, but not at the expense of your wellness goals!

Happy, healthy eating out 🙂

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