Do you relish the opportunity to ditch the saucepans and dine out? If so, I completely understand. Frankly, I'll use any excuse to down cooking utensils and head out. But, dining out presents a unique challenge - how do you balance your desire for an enjoyable dining experience with your desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Dining Out - Is Enjoyable and Healthy Possible?
If you're worried about how to balance enjoyment and health, when dining out, you're not alone. Many of us worry about the same thing - can we achieve a healthy balance? The answer is a resounding yes, of course we can!
First things first though, you are allowed a food treat here and there - and if you only dine out occasionally (e.g. once a month) then don't be too concerned about the finer details of your meal, just enjoy your dining experience and don't stuff yourself too full. If you dine out regularly, however, then you will benefit from paying more attention to your meal.
Healthy Dining Out Tip 1 - Ask And You Shall Receive
When you are a customer at a restaurant or cafe, their goal is to provide you with a delicious meal and excellent service in the hope that you will return. Clearly then, it's in their best interests to cater to your individual needs - so do let them know exactly what it is you want... ask, and you shall receive.
If healthy eating is important to you, and I'm guessing it is, then consider asking for the following when dining out:
- Wholegrain instead of white breads for starters
- Smaller portions, e.g. a smaller sized steak or chicken breast
- Visible fat removed from meat cuts before cooking/serving
- Meal prepared in vegetable oil rather than butter
- Go easy on the cheese on your pizza/pasta
- Serve salad dressing on the side (or delete altogether)
- Serve your main dish sauce/gravy/jus on the side
- Swap your side dish for a healthier option (e.g. swap fries for a baked potato or rice, swap creamy salads for leafy green salads)
- Use low-fat milk rather than full-fat (e.g. in coffee)
- If healthy dessert options are missing, ask if they can make you a fruit salad or fruit platter
- Swap icecream or cream with your dessert for natural yoghurt
- Share a dessert with a friend - ask for it to be halved and served on two plates
We're in the UK for a few weeks and so our dinners are restaurant fare for the foreseeable future. So I've taken boldly to asking for what I want. Last night the only healthy sounding menu option was a vegetarian noodle stir fry, but I wanted more protein in my meal (why? because protein is more satiating than carbohydrate or fat). So I asked for chicken to be added to my vegetarian meal - the restaurant staff were more than happy to oblige and the end result was delicious. Which just goes to show there is no harm in asking.
For More Tips On Healthy Dining Out
If you'd like more information on healthy dining out, check out our Top 10 Tips for Dining Out - a helpful e-booklet. This can be found in our Shop or if you sign up for our free monthly newsletter right now you'll receive a free copy of our Top 10 Tips for Dining Out.
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About The Author
Jennifer Bowden Nutritionist, MSc (Dist), BSc (Hons) - Human Nutrition
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