Eating out and on the run are both part of every day life. People are busier than ever before and the way we eat needs to reflect this.
Restaurants are no longer the ‘once in a while’ treat they used to be – for some it is an everyday necessity, and for others it’s an essential part of their social and/or business lives.
We all love to have food prepared for us, whether it is take-out, and fast foods or at a sit-down restaurant. We don’t have to cook or wash the dishes – happy days!
However all is not lost, it is possible to eat out often and still make healthy food choices; however this can be a challenge. When you eat out there are usually way too many choices on the menu. We must remember most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sugar, salt and fat.
Also remember, food served in restaurants usually contains 50% or more calories than the food you’d serve at home. Add to this the fact that portion sizes have increased over the years; eating-out can become a real risk to any weight or health management plan.
Before you can eat out successfully, you need to learn about the different food groups and how to incorporate different foods into your diet. The way we have structured your meals thus far is high protein and low carbohydrate. When you eat out you should aim to do the same wherever possible.
Use smart-eating strategies and plan ahead, consider the menu and choose foods carefully to keep you on your plan.
We all like to be healthy and to be sure that we’re doing the best we can for ourselves, and our families.
Eating On the Run & in Busy Times!
The key to eating successfully whilst “on the run” is preparation. If you prepare ahead of time when you know you will have a busy day, week or life you will successfully avoid the need to eat any rubbish!
Preparing your food each evening when you make dinner or each morning when you make breakfast works really well. You must have checked ahead of time that you are stocked up with the right shopping and ingredients.
You are due to eat at a certain time, let’s say 12.30pm, and you know you will be unable to eat a meal due to work commitments. Consider taking a small snack with you such as some fruit, nuts, seeds maybe a protein bar if that’s suitable or even a protein shake.
The aim of the game is too boost your metabolism and not to go for more than 3-4 hrs between meals. Eat just before a meeting or prepare something for straight after, not many meetings last more than 2-3 hrs.
Eating Out – Top Tips and Tricks
Order your food with your goals, and your taste buds in mind. Portion sizes are important – if you control the portion size then the calories will look after themselves. Remember you are aiming to eat high protein low carbohydrate.
Here are a few tips to help you with any dining out experience:
- First of all, identify what you are going to order, and which food groups they fit into. For example: Carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
- If you’re unsure as to what something is, or what it contains ask the waiter. If the waiter/waitress doesn’t know, then the chef will.
- Think ahead, if you know you’re eating out later and it could be a lavish affair, choose wisely earlier in the day to keep calories, fat, sugar and salt intakes under control.
- Only order a sweet after the main course if still hungry. Opt for sorbets, or fruit dishes to balance out a heavy main course.
- Speak up about how you’d like a dish prepared eg ask for no mayonnaise or without sauce.
- You’re more likely to overeat at an ‘all you can eat’ style buffet.
- Choose side orders of salad or vegetables to fill up on.
- Cut off any visible fat from meat to keep saturated fat intake down.
- Look out for smaller portions ie a main meal option as a starter size.
- Opt for dishes which are grilled, baked, steamed, poached or cooked in own juice rather than fried.
- Try not to snack on bread before your meal arrives.
- Ask for water, and drink it.
- Think ahead. Plan where you want to go and consider the meal options at the location.
- Order the regular or child size portions.
- Add condiments like mustard and vinegar, lemon juice and seasonings (pepper, garlic, onions) for flavour.
Each Choice makes a big difference…
You may have a choice between baked potato and French fries. Both are carbohydrate choices, but the fries are high in fat content. The baked potato can be low in fat. Choosing toppings like yogurt can keep the fat content low, but when you add butter or sour cream, the fat content increases.
Things to watch for
Choose foods that are baked, broiled, poached or steamed; for example, a boneless, skinless chicken breast served with lemon juice.
Stir-fried foods can be low in fat or high in fat if lots of oil is used in the cooking process.
Meals with multiple courses eaten over longer periods and with alcohol are all associated with overindulgence. Large serving bowls and spoons increase the likelihood of piling more food on your plate than you usually eat.
Studies have also shown that eating with friends can tempt us to overeat.
Many restaurants serve larger portions than you need. Just because a large portion is served doesn’t mean you must eat it all! Remember the fist rule – eat portions the size of your fist as a guide.
All the hard work and decisions are done before the meal, so that once the food comes, you can sit back, relax and enjoy your meal.
If you are drinking alcohol, choose wine, and alternate with water.
Mix alcoholic drinks with low-calorie soft drinks and water. Not only does alcohol contain calories, but the more that is consumed, the more likely that good intentions go out of the window!
Each unit of alcohol takes about 15 minutes of exercise to burn of. That means a bottler of wine, which is 8 units would take 2 hrs of moderate intensity exercise.
Try not to arrive at the event hungry. Have a light meal or healthy snack prior to getting there to prevent overindulgence.
Occasions like Christmas, parties, weddings and so on can often be difficult times for those trying to eat healthily and watch their weight.
Thinking ahead and preparing for such times can help. Just because food is offered doesn’t mean it has to be eaten. Feel free to pass.
Avoid pastry-based foods such as mince pies, canapés, tarts, sausage rolls etc. Aim to fill at least half your plate with healthier lean protein options, and add some colour to your plate.
Naturally colourful fruits and vegetables like crudités are not only low in calories but contain vitamins and antioxidants which are beneficial to your health.
At buffets, after you have eaten don’t stand near the food table – the temptation to keep grabbing a handful or plateful of something nearby can be overpowering. Talk to friends in another part of the room.
At functions like weddings and christenings choose the cake course as a dessert instead of having dessert and the cake.
Restaurants, Takeaways and Examples
A takeaway provides a convenient night off from cooking, but they can be a poor choice for health-conscious consumers. Portion sizes can often be large, so think about sharing to keep the amount of food to a sensible limit.
Choose side orders of salad or vegetables to fill up on.
Lower-fat options include anything boiled or steamed, such as steamed fish and plain rather than fried rice. And for a healthy choice, it’s best to avoid anything in batter because these foods are high in fat.
Steaming rather than deep-fat frying really cuts down on fat. Traditionally, Chinese food was cooked in small bamboo steamers, but it’s easy to steam food if you’re cooking at home.
Often high in salt and can be oozing in fat, avoid dishes described as deep-fried or battered.
Opt for stir-fried chicken or vegetables to keep fat content as low as possible. Choose plain boiled rice rather than fried rice.
Avoid the prawn crackers and crispy seaweed dishes – both moreish and loaded in calories.
You could choose dishes such as steamed fish, chicken chop suey andSzechwanprawns. Stir-frying, another traditional Chinese cooking method, can also be a healthy way to cook.
Stir-fries typically contain a good selection of vegetables and a moderate amount of lean meat or other protein, and they’re usually served with a large portion of rice or noodles – which is always optional for a weight loss diet.
Chinese seasonings and sauces make food tasty but they’re high in salt, so only use these in moderation:
- Hoisin (barbecue) sauce
- Black/yellow bean sauces
- Soy/oyster/fish sauces
You could try these flavourings instead: pepper, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder (star anise, fennel, clove, cinnamon, peppercorns).
Indian food is often high in fat, especially those with creamy sauces such as korma and masala. Avoid those pre-meal poppadums and chapattis – both high in fat. Bhajis and naan breads are also surprisingly high in calories.
The best dishes to limit fat and calorie intakes are oven-cooked tandoori and tikka dishes.Madras, jalfrezi, balti or dupiaza are also all right.
Go for the thin crust pizzas rather than the deep-pan or ‘filled crust’ options. Ask for small amounts of cheese or opt for the reduced fat versions some outlets now offer.
Keep the meat-based pizza toppings like pepperoni and salami to a minimum and go mad with vegetable and fish-based options instead.
Pasta dishes served with a tomato or vegetable-based sauce are much better than creamy or cheese-based varieties. Try to order a high protein dish such as – chicken Parma Jana (chicken breast with bacon and cheese in a tomato sauce).
Forego the garlic bread or focaccia and try either plain bread or a mixed salad to accompany your meal instead.
In tapas restaurants don’t order too many dishes it will not only save you money but keep you healthier.
Fish, chips, burgers and kebabs
Portion sizes are often huge, so think about sharing a portion of chips between two.
Eat the fish and leave the batter. Avoid small fried items such as scampi or chicken nuggets as they contain more fat than a single larger item.
Forget the super-size meal deals, a small, plain burger is fine! Ask for salad and forego the mayo. Try shish kebab instead of the fat-laden doner.
Look out for different bread types to add variety and taste. Go for protein-based fillers such as ham, lean meat, fish, low fat cheeses like cottage cheese andEdam.
Avoid mayonnaise and other high-fat dressings. Try chutneys and pickles instead. Look out for vegetable-based or salad-packed varieties to fill out the sandwich and keep calories low.
Look carefully at pre-packed versions. Some are very high in calories – opt for those less than 400kcal per pack.
Now you have all the tools you need to sit down to a meal in a restaurant, pick up food on the go or order in your favourite meal. Look at the menu, choose your meal, then ask yourself: ‘Is there a better choice?’