Dining out: Stay smart

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Our nutrition expert Sophie Bruno offers tips on how to eat well while dining out

Making healthy choices when eating out often poses a challenge. It all seems to boil down to one dilemma: how can you ensure complete control over your diet when you are not in control of your eating environment? You can be up against many villains when you are trying to upkeep healthy eating habits in a restaurant – big portions, too much salt, fat or sugar, tempting starters, side dishes and desserts, just to name a few.

Sometimes, you may have to deal with the added pressure of friends and family who may push you towards certain food choices, by encouraging you to live in the moment. In such instances, it is best to be prepared for this scenario and practice being strong by simply saying, ‘No’, politely but firmly.

Is it possible to eat well when dining out?
As with all challenges, it is best to be well prepared and informed. Eating at a restaurant does not necessarily have to sabotage a healthy eating regime. Implement smart food strategies – plan ahead of time, consider the menu carefully and become menu savvy to ensure you select meals that will not lead you astray. Below you will find some tips to help you to feel in control of your eating-out experience and help guide you in selecting healthier eating options.

Managing your portions

  • Keep it small
    Portion sizes at fast food joints or restaurants are usually much larger than what you would normally eat at home. Ask for half portions, share a large meal with a friend, and do not feel obliged to finish what is on your plate. Ask for a doggy-bag and take home the remainders of your meal.
  • Sharing is caring
    Share a starter if it strikes your fancy. If you are still feeling hungry after your meal, conclude with a fruit dessert or sip on a plain cappuccino. If you love rich desserts, order one and ask for additional spoons to split with your friends!
  • Appetisers
    Say ‘No’ to bread or other nibbles before your meal arrives, as these are likely to increase your overall calorie intake.
  • Avoid super-sizing
    Choose standard or smaller portion sizes, and avoid ‘large’ or ‘super-size’ versions as they contain high levels of fat and calories.

Making healthier choices

  • Be menu savvy
    When ordering, balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. As a rule of thumb, half of your plate should be composed of vegetables, ¼ protein and ¼ (whole) grains.
  • Ask for more vegetables
    If your meal does not come with vegetables, order side dishes of leafy green salad or steamed vegetables. This can replace a starter.
  • Opt for whole grains
    Look for dishes made with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, bulgur or oats. Fibre keeps you fuller for longer and helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
  • Tomato and vegetable-based sauces
    If you need to pay attention to your weight, opt for tomato or vegetable-based sauces and soups rather than cream, coconut or cheese-based ones