We all enjoy the convenience and pleasure of eating out with friends and this doesn’t have to be bad news nutritionally either.
Getting the balance right is important, especially if you eat out more than once a week.
Here are some tips to help you choose wisely.
- Make foods such as rice, bread, pasta, chapatti, naan and noodles part of your meal.
- Remember to include fruit or vegetables.
- Limit foods high in fat (e.g. creamy sauces, fried foods, pastry) and added sugar (puddings and desserts).
- Check out restaurant websites for nutritional information before you go.
- Know when enough is enough! Never be afraid to leave what you don’t want and if you have a small appetite, ask for a smaller portion.
- If the restaurant has nothing you fancy, ask for what you want – most places are happy to do this (within reason!).
- Give the fizzy drinks and thick milkshakes a miss and opt for water, fresh fruit juice, ice-cold semi-skimmed milk or a plain tea or coffee.
- Keep the size of your burger and fries small. Share larger portions of fries with a friend.
- Try out healthier options including deli sandwiches, grilled chicken and salads.
- Ask for dressings ‘on the side’.
- Finish your meal with a fruit bag or fruit and yogurt.
At the Pizza Restaurant
- Salad bowl and opt for low-calorie dressing.
- Pasta with tomato-based sauces.
- Your own pizza - pile up a plain pizza base with vegetable toppings. Add in chicken or fish for more variety.
- Fruit-based puddings e.g. fresh fruit salad, or ice creams and sorbets.
- The “light” pizza if available or ask for half the cheese.
- Sausage, pepperoni, salami and thick cheesy type toppings on pizza.
- Creamy sauces on pasta.
Food on the High Street
- Rolls, wraps, sandwiches and fruit.
- Salad and grilled items.
- Sausage rolls, pasties and pies.
- Fried foods.
- Oily dressings, mayonnaise and thickly spread butter or margarine.
- Fish and chips are high in fat – add mushy peas or beans, share the chips with a friend and leave some of the batter.
- Have chicken and chips but trim the chicken skin.
- Try donner kebabs with small portions of meat and top up with extra salad – skip the oily dressing, and just go for lemon juice or chilli sauce for a tangy taste.
- Have jacket potatoes with nutritious fillings such as baked beans, houmous, cottage cheese, tuna and sweetcorn but hold the butter and the mayo.
At the Chinese
- Chicken and sweetcorn soup.
- Beef, chicken, prawn or bean curd with green peppers or in black bean sauce.
- Dishes with lots of vegetables such as chow mein or vegetable stir fry.
- Boiled/steamed rice or noodles.
- Prawn crackers, pancake rolls and sweet and sour pork balls as they absorb loads of fat.
- Crispy duck - the skin is high in fat.
- Fried rice or noodles.
- Soy sauce - like many other Chinese foods it’s high in salt.
Sharing a few dishes is a great way to enjoy the variety of flavours, especially if you can try something new.
- Dishes such as rogan josh, bhuna, saag, jalfrezi, dhansak (with lentils) or a dry dish such as tandoori.
- Basmati rice, Chapatti.
- Masala, korma and pasanda as they contain a lot of cream and fat.
- Popadums, parathas.
- Deep fried foods such as onion bhajis.
So often we eat out at the cinema out of habit and not because we are hungry. Why not eat before you go so you’re less tempted to nibble, or share a small carton of popcorn with a friend. For a different snack take a packet of dried fruit or nuts with you. Choose water, diet or low-sugar drinks.
School, College or your Place of Work
This is the place most people eat out most often.
Try to cover one-third to a half of your plate with vegetables and another third with carbohydrate foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes, chapatti, bread, noodles and yam. The remainder should be a lean meat, fish, egg, cheese or a vegetarian dish.
Remember combination dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, fish pie and lasagne usually contain vegetables but you can add an extra vegetable or side salad for an added boost.
Opt for wholegrain bread and choose sandwiches which contain salad vegetables and limit the mayonnaise.
If there are no healthy options available why not “hassle” those in charge for more variety. In the meantime plan ahead, prepare a healthy packed lunch and bring suitable snacks from home.
A Word About Salt
Many snack and takeaway foods are high in unnecessary salt and it is best to limit these. Try to avoid adding extra salt to the food you eat. Check out NHS Choices for more information on salt.