Eating out the healthy way: 11 great tips for wholesome dining

Spring is on the horizon, and many of us are starting to wake up to the winter tyre we’ve accumulated around our midriff. The Christmas stuffing has done its job. We’re ruing the day we overloaded our shopping trolleys with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, fine chocolate truffles and every type of cheese known to mankind.

By now we’ve tried the post-Christmas diet, failed and tried again. Every dinner invite fills us with dread. It’s yet another temptation to ditch the diet. But, going out to dinner doesn’t have to mean you fall completely off the wagon. It’s just as important to have some fun, as it is to get your diet back on track.

When you are dining out you do have options. There’s also the matter of where you go. Some restaurants have healthier options than others. You could catch up with mates at the health club eatery after a gym work out for example. Food options at a health club are more likely to be in keeping with a healthy lifestyle. Anyhow, it’s not just a case of where you go.

Whatever restaurant you decide to visit, there are some easy rules to follow to make healthier menu choices. Going out to eat shouldn’t be an excuse to eat unhealthily. Dakota Murphey, working alongside Health Club and Gym Wickwoods, who has put together 11 tricks to help you stay healthy when you are eating out, which means you get to enjoy your meal guilt free and feel happy all the way home.

  1. Go online and read the menu before you go. That way you won’t make a snap decision you’ll regret. You are more likely to make unhealthy choices when you are hungry. If you’ve already sussed out the options you are more likely to stick with them.

If you are convinced the restaurant will be too challenging, ask your friends if they mind going somewhere else instead. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets. Eating the right amount in all-you-can-eat circumstances is too challenging. However, a good tip for buffets is to use a smaller plate.

  1. If you are worried about overeating, have a healthy snack before you go.
  2. Ask for it your way. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to the menu. Any decent restaurant will want to accommodate you. Swap potatoes, especially French fries, for extra vegetables. Do away with creamy sauces. Ask for smaller portions of meat and larger portions of vegetables. Swap fried fish in batter or breadcrumbs for a plain grilled version.
  3. Don’t assume ‘light’ or ‘healthy’ labelled options are the best. Some labels on menus can be misleading. For example, low-carb options may seem attractive, but can still be full of calories.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask how any of the food on the menu is prepared. It could have a significant impact on how healthy that particular meal is. Steamed, grilled or poached are cooking methods that equate to less fat. Roasted can also be ok. Avoid fried, especially deep fried foods.
  5. If you must have a starter, share. You don’t really need it. Or choose a salad without the bacon bits, pasta, coleslaw or anything in mayonnaise. Ask for salad dressing on the side. You only need a smidgeon. Salad doesn’t need to be swimming in oil.
  6. Skip the bread basket. Ask for crudités (raw veggies) instead.
  7. No cocktails or fancy drinks. If you must indulge in alcohol, stick to vodka or gin with tonic, or alternatively white wine. If your party are ordering wine by the bottle, order some sparkling water and make your glass half and half. It will be less calories, and if you stick to a sensible couple of glasses, there’ll be no hangover.
  8. Order first. Don’t be swayed or tempted by your neighbours. You may not realise it, but your menu choices can be highly influenced by the choices of other people at your table.
  9. Eat mindfully. Give your full attention to the process of eating and chew slowly. Take the time to savour food presentation, aromas and flavours. Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings you have whilst you are eating. Taking your time will help to prevent overeating and the practice of eating mindfully will add to your enjoyment. Put utensils down between some mouthfuls and drink water with your meal.
  10. You really don’t need dessert. Sorbet is the best option if you really must. You can always have one square of chocolate when you get home if you are craving a sweet treat. Definitely avoid the triple chocolate gut buster (every restaurant has something along those lines). Order a coffee or tea instead. Herbal tea is even better.

Choose wisely and your dining out treat can be healthy, but just as fun.