Going out for a meal or grabbing a lunch-time snack can scupper your healthy eating if you make the wrong choices. That’s not to say you can never eat out when you are watching your diet, it’s just about learning the rules of eating out the healthy way.
"There’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, so don't feel guilty if you pick an unhealthy option once in a while," says Tanya Haffner, dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. "However, if you go to restaurants, eat at the pub, or get takeaways regularly, it can be easy to lose control of what you're eating."
Food that isn’t prepared at home tends to be higher in calories, as well as saturated fat, salt and sugar, but you can avoid going down that route.
1. Plan ahead
If you’re going out for a meal, plan ahead. Most chains have their restaurant menus online so you can see in advance what the best options are rather than being bombarded with lots of different foods on the day and ending up picking a less healthy choice. "If you don’t see anything that’s healthy, pick another restaurant," says Tanya.
2. Pick a cuisine
Some countries’ cuisines tend to be healthier than others. Japanese food is generally lower in calories and includes less saturated fat, sugar and calories. Whatever the cuisine, there’s always a healthier option. If you are eating out at an Indian restaurant, opt for an oven baked tandoori style meat dish instead of a high fat and high calorie curry like a korma. If you are visiting an Italian, forget about the pizza and pasta and opt for the grilled fish or grilled chicken option.
3. Read between the lines
When presented with a menu, get to know what words to avoid. Creamy, buttery, pan-fried and crispy all suggest high fat and high saturated fat. Look instead for words like baked, grilled and griddled. Pastry dishes will always be high calorie and high fat options - so make these a rare choice if you’re serious about keeping a healthy weight.
Don’t be shy about asking the waiter or waitress how certain foods are cooked. Ask for their suggestions about healthier options. Many menus do have healthier or light choices highlighted.
5. You order first
Get your order in before anyone else has the chance to tempt you into having something you’d prefer not to eat. If you hear your friend ordering loaded potato skins with extra cheese it might make you question your choice and you may be persuaded into having the same.
6. Don’t over order
Have a healthy starter or a couple of starters as a main course if you don’t want to eat a full sized main meal. Perhaps order a plain salad as a starter, with any dressing on the side, and then have a different starter to come when the main courses arrive. "Those who eat big veggie salads before the main course tend to eat fewer calories overall than those who don’t have a first-course salad," says Tanya.