Tips for Making Healthy Food Choices at Restaurants

Many people who are dieting or watching their weight tend to steer clear from eating out in restaurants as they are worried about large portion sizes, unknown ingredients in the dishes, tempting menus, bread baskets and dessert trolleys; however avoiding restaurants and eating out altogether isn’t a realistic approach to a healthy diet and is also completely unnecessary. If you want to lose or maintain weight and still eat out there are several tips that you can follow to be able to enjoy eating out in restaurants, including fast-food restaurants!

1. Be prepared!

Before you go out work out just how much fat and how many calories etc you are prepared to eat without ruining your diet; maybe do a little more exercise in the days prior to your visit and eat smaller meals during the day before you go out. However, don’t be TOO rigid, especially if you are eating out for a special occasion; so long as you are more careful with your regular eating a little treat isn’t going to harm your diet TOO much, and you have to be realistic with your diet or you simply won’t stick with it. Make mental decisions before you go out, maybe a three course set menu may be less expensive – do you REALLY need a dessert, maybe there would be healthier choices if you choose the a la carte menu rather than a set meal.

If you are going to a larger chain it is likely that the restaurant will have the menus on their websites (maybe even nutritional values as well) so you can check the menu before you go and make the healthier choices from home before you get to the restaurant and are tempted by the less healthy options.

2. Be on your guard!

If you are offered a bread roll, ether refuse or chose a small one and move the basket away from you – it is very easy to pick at bread while you’re waiting for your meal if you are hungry. When it comes to ordering your food remember that you are the customer and therefore you CAN make special requests. Ask for salads without dressing, potatoes and vegetables without butter and don’t be scared to ask for a side salad instead of chips. If you are visiting a ‘serve yourself’ salad bar be very wary of the ‘extras’ like fried croutons, crispy bacon, grated cheese and calorie and fat laden sauces. These may not look like much, but a little of each can really hinder your diet; choose fresh crisp vegetables and salad instead. Check the menu carefully when you order, very often a menu will offer smaller portions or even children’s menus; so often restaurant portions can be rather on the large side, so ordering a smaller portion and supplementing it maybe with a side salad will really help in your weight loss journey.

Also choose dishes that have been poached, baked, grilled, steamed or boiled rather than fried, sautéed, or roasted, they are all less likely to have added fats.

3. Understand ‘foody speak’!

Restaurants are becoming more and more flowery with their food descriptions on a menu; to eat healthily it is advisable to know exactly what the terms used on the menu means. There are many words and phrases which make it quite clear that the foods are going to be high in fat and calories; people wanting to eat a healthier meal will steer clear of foods that are described as fried, battered, creamy, breaded, crispy, smothered or buttered, but there are some other words that some people may not fully understand.

Some examples are listed here; if you see a dish described as ’Au Gratin’, these dishes are actually topped with either grated cheese or a mixture of breadcrumbs and butter and/or cheese.

Dishes that are ‘Flambéed’ have had hot liquid which contains alcohol (usually brandy) poured over them and then set alight.

Any dish with the word ‘Hollandaise’ in it means that the dish will contain a creamy sauce that is rich in egg yolks, butter and lemon juice.

Dishes with the phrase ‘a la Mornay or Mornay’ mean that the main ingredient is covered in cheese or cheese sauce.

‘Scalloped’ dishes are usually a potato based dish complete with a rich cream based sauce.

4. Salads can be dangerous!

So many people instinctively think that salads are the best choice for people watching their weight, but this isn’t always the case.

So often the salads are doused in dressings or vinaigrettes containing high amounts of oil or have generous helping of mayonnaise based salads – like cole slaw or potato salad on the side.

Always ask for your salad with no dressing or with the dressing served separately on the side and NEVER pour on a dressing or sauce but use our fork to dip foods into the sauce instead.

5. Watch that drink!

For most people a nice restaurant meal just isn’t the same without a glass of wine, and one or even two glasses of wine with dinner is fine, but having more not only adds empty calories to your meal but also weakens your self control and tends to make you eat more than you normally would.

Offer to be the delegated driver, that way you have the perfect excuse not to drink. It is also advisable to alternate your alcoholic beverages with sparkling water or diet coke; this will not only cut your calorie consumption but also stop you having a hangover next day!

6. Don’t be waiting for the lollypop!

 You are not a child who will be rewarded for leaving a clean plate with a lollypop! Don’t be worried about leaving food on your plate. Eat your meal slowly and push your plate away when you are feeling full. It is worth remembering that it actually takes your body around twenty minutes to realise that it’s full!