Trying to maintain a healthy weight but love going to restaurants? NBD. There are plenty of ways to eat out healthily and enjoy it. Here, we spoke to nutritionists to find out how to get the best out of dining for your body and your tastebuds…
Don’t skip meals throughout the day to save your appetite. Maintaining your normal routine will reduce the temptation to blow out when it comes to dinner time. “If you miss meals, your body will think there is a shortage of food and will slow down your metabolism and hold on tight to your fat stores. Sticking to your daily eating routine is a good way to avoid this,” says nutritionist Dr. Marilyn Glenville.
Most of us don’t tend to eat a three course meal every night of the week, right? Therefore, to avoid leaving the restaurant feeling incredibly full and most likely bloated, don’t suddenly change your habits. Instead of going for a starter, main and a pudding why not go for either a starter and a main or a main and a pudding. If you’ve made the effort to go out for dinner, it’s important that you enjoy what’s on offer but eating two courses instead of three is the easiest way to reduce the risk of overeating.
If you feel like having two starters instead of one main - go for it, there are no rules. Otherwise, nutritionist Dr. Marilyn Glenville, says: "If you are eating out or at a buffet, research shows that the larger your plate, the more food you put on it, and the more you eat – regardless of appetite. Asking for a smaller plate can be a great tool for ensuring you don’t overeat but enjoy everything on it.”
It’s undeniable that certain foods can be made much more unhealthy by the way that they are prepared. For example grilled chicken is better than fried chicken but we all know that. When you’re scouring the menu look for words such as “grilled”, “broiled”, “steamed”, “raw’ and “boiled” - it’s the best way to know that you're getting the most nutritional value out of your dish.
Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter if you can make changes to your chosen meal. If you need a bit more balance, add some salad to the steak-frites or ask if the sauce can come on the side so that you can choose how much you’d like your chicken to swim in it.
“All restaurants have vegetables and lean protein whatever culinary fusion you're looking for and most restaurants can tell you what they're healthiest options are,” says Hala El-Shafie, who co-presents of Channel 4’s How to Lose Weight Well. And she’s absolutely right. Be smart with your choices, pick whole grains over white carbohydrates, eat olives at the start over bread, make sure your plate is balanced (protein, carbohydrate and fats) and if you’re not sure what the best options are for you, simply ask.
If information isn't online about what menu choices are at your chosen restaurant, ask your waiter - they should be able to guide you to a choice that fits your needs. For example, if you're following a particular diet it can be helpful to know the energy content of each meal. At Pizza Express, the Leggera pizza range (Leggera Pollo ad Astra, Leggera Padana and Leggera American Hot), are all under 600 calories. At Wagamama's Warm Chilli Chicken Salad and Chicken Ramen are both under 500 calories and at Nando's ¼ Chicken Breast is only 298 calories while Chicken Butterfly is only 330 calories.
You should never think of food as “good” and “bad”. Everything in moderation, remember? El-Shafie says: “If you're only going out for dinner occasionally then remember one meal is not a deal breaker - it's what you eat 'most of the time' that's going to make a difference so just enjoy it.”