When eating out at restaurants we sometimes use the occasion to live a little and spoil ourselves. We might make bad food choices that we wouldn’t usually. And that’s OK, if it’s every once in a while.
However, if we eat out regularly or are a super healthy person they we may wish to make healthy choices at a restaurant too.
In this article I will explore some tips for eating out healthy so you know how to make healthier choices in cafes, restaurants and bars.
Tips for eating out healthy
1. Check restaurant reviews
One great way to check for healthy food offerings, and in particular whether eateries have plant based or vegan food, is to check out restaurant reviews before you dine. Some websites allow you to filter restaurant reviews with keywords or you can use the search function (press Ctrl and F) on your computer to find keywords in reviews such as ‘healthy’, ‘salad’, ‘wholesome’ and ‘vegan’. I regularly do this before eating out to see if places offer a good selection of vegan food, especially if a restaurant doesn’t have its own website or menu available to view online.
2. View hygiene ratings
Food safety and hygiene is all part of staying healthy, so make sure you check the hygiene standards of a restaurant before eating there. An easy way to do this in the UK is to check their hygiene rating from the Food Standards Agency. These are usually visible on the entrance to a restaurant and hopefully listed on their website, but you can also view them on some booking websites like Squaremeal. If they care about food safety then hopefully they care about making some healthy food options and using fresh locally sourced ingredients when possible.
3. View the menu in advance
Lots of restaurants have their own websites nowadays with current menus readily available to view online. This makes eating out so much easier, particularly if you have an allergy or dietary requirement. If you are simply looking for healthier options then you’ll be able to see what restaurants offer before you turn up. You can even make your healthy choice in advance and know exactly what you’re ordering. Stick with it and resist the temptation to change your mind once there!
4. Choose a smaller plate
Often menus have lighter choices and lower calorie meals which they clearly state on menus so you can easily make a better choice. Sometimes these are called ‘small plates’ or ‘lighter plates’. If a menu doesn’t have this choice and you want a lighter meal then ask to have a starter as a main course or even look at the children’s menu.
5. Choose a better side
Skip the unhealthy sides such as fries oversaturated in oil, greasy onion rings or high GI white bread and choose something healthier instead. A fresh, crisp, raw salad or bowl of seasonal veg will make your plate look so much more appetising with a rainbow of colour and healthier too. Even if you pick the greasiest, most devilish burger as your main, consider skipping the chips for healthy serving of vitamins and minerals alongside, or at least opt for a healthier starter.
6. Consider your drink
Our drink choices when dining out are usually the most calorific and sugar filled part of the meal. We all know alcohol is a poison and full of empty calories and many other drinks are filled to the brim with added sugar with its own health consequences. Fizzy pop like Coca-Cola is terrible for our health and should be avoided. As Medical News Today tells us “Regular consumption of these ingredients in the high quantities you find in Coke and other processed foods and drinks can lead to higher blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity”. Instead, opt for water, fresh fruit juice and smoothies (in limited amounts) or herbal tea.
7. Choose wholemeal
If you are given the choice then always opt for wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. It’s full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and doesn’t spike your blood sugars like white versions. Wholegrains also keep you fuller for longer and less likely to keep snacking as the day goes on. Check out my article on the benefits of wholemeal bread to see exactly why it’s the healthier choice.
8. Stop eating when you are full
We do tend to overeat when eating out, so remember to listen to your body and stop eating when you are full. Perhaps it’s something to do with not wanting to waste money, but you can ask to take leftovers home in some restaurants, particularly if you’ve left a large amount. Eat until you are comfortably full and then take the rest home for another time.
9. Be mindful of how food is cooked
The way food is prepared can be the difference between an unhealthy meal and a much healthier one. Grilled and steamed food will be much healthier than foods that are fried or sautéed. If foods have extra oil, salt, sugar or butter then they will also be unhealthier. Sometimes you can ask to skip these unhealthy ingredients and have your food prepared without. Many restaurants are very accommodating to their customer needs and can adjust cooking techniques or meal contents on request.
10. Skip dessert
Not only will skipping a pudding be healthier, but it will save a small fortune too. Sometimes the pudding are as much as small main meals! Instead choose fresh fruit provided it’s not covered in syrup, coffee or a herbal tea.
Eating out healthily is definitely doable when you need to. Hopefully these tips will help.
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