As you probably already know, I write for a food magazine (Taste Magazine) as well as my weekly Food Friday features here on the website. As much as eating out is great and fun, it sometimes becomes a chore when you are trying to eat sensibly or follow a diet plan.
I dine out regularly as part of my work with Taste as well as client meals and work events let alone date nights with the husband. As much as I am always mindful and try to make a healthy choice, it can be damned hard, especially when your host or chef is watching over you wanting to get your reaction on a risotto with a life times supply of cheese or the triple cooked in beef fat fries. Thankfully I don’t have a sweet tooth but it’s hard to say no!
I know it’s something other people struggle with to, so the lovely Rebecca Moore has kindly given her suggestions on how to be healthier when dining out!
My name is Rebecca and I have ZERO will power.
No really, it’s true. Every single day (ok that’s a lie) – MOST days I start out with really good intentions and begin my day with warm water and lemon, followed by a green tea. I might even have a green smoothie, admittedly I will then curse the damn Nutribullet because it leaked AGAIN but, hello – I’M DRINKING LIQUIFIED KALE AND SPINACH, kudos to me.
Then I move on with my day, knowing that at some point throughout the day I will faced with a choice; to eat the food I shouldn’t eat or not eat the food I shouldn’t eat. Obviously I eat the food, I’ve already told you I have no will power.
One thing I CANNOT say no to is an invitation to eat out, I honestly don’t think that I have ever declined this kind of invitation. Clearly, as a person that drinks green drinks, I have some awareness of my health and nutrition, so I think that I’ve developed some pretty good tips for maintaining a balanced strategy for eating out when trying not to over indulge.
At The Restaurant-
- Opt for the items that are ‘grilled or steamed’ – that way you know that there isn’t going to be extra fats added during the cooking process. If you are really committed to this, you could ask which oil they are using, or ask for your meal to be prepared ‘dry’ which means no fats or oils used at all. With this in mind, pay attention to the sauce that accompanies a dish too; as many are heavy on cream, butter or cheese. Yes, they are creamy and delicious but they are super high in calories and fats.
- Ask the waiting staff if you can swap the sides; fries for salad, coleslaw for veggies or crudités. Even the ‘healthy’ sweet potato fres have probably lost all of their nutritional value by being crucified in a deep fat fryer. Many restaurants now offer vegetables sticks and hummus on kid’s menus but not on the adults, just ask if they could substitute! If you do opt for a salad (LOL) ask for the dressing on the side. It’s not uncommon to have a Caesar salad drowned in calorific dressing and despite the clever marketing ploys that take advantage of poor food education, ‘light’ and ‘fat free’ dressings are loaded with sugar and salt. If you want some dressing, try a splash of balsamic vinegar or ask for some avocado to be added for creaminess and try a dash of chilli flakes on top.
- If you consider to be relatively classy and choose wine as your tipple, please aware that is it prreeettyy high on the calorie front. However, always looking for a silver lining, Medical Daily report that wine has health benefits from high levels of anti-oxidants that can lower cholesterol, and reduces the risk of diabetes. Although, drinking a spritzer with plenty of ice and soda water is also recommended.
- Brace yourself: Avoid cocktails where you can – they are PACKED with sugary fruit juices, which only adds to the calories you are already consuming from alcohol. Swap your classic cocktail for a mojito made with soda water instead of lemonade or a margarita that often has no mixer at all….Yes, I’m condoning drink straight alcohol. Avoid fruit cider at all costs, I know, this is awful news – but one bottle of fruit cider contains 30g of sugar – a Bounty only has 13g! I would take 2 ¼ Bounty’s over a cider any day.
- If you are a spirit kinda gal, try swapping out the mixer for soda water or just going ‘on the rocks’ with plenty of ice and flavoured with fresh lemon/lime where possible, Amaretto with lots of lemon slices and ice is a personal favourite of mine. Just like ‘light’ dressings, diet coke and slimline tonic are sweetened artificially and are not ‘healthier’ options. If you have to, you are best off going with a dash of the regular mixer.
The Next Day (when you got home late from the restaurant and don’t have the time/energy to make your lunch) –
- It’s true to say that despite how many times we hear ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ – sometimes it just isn’t appealing. However, the clever chaps over at Cardiff Sports Nutrition want us to reconsider, “By eating breakfast you are replenishing the energy stores in your body, this helps to fight mental and physical fatigue and curb any sugar cravings during the day. It really does have long term benefits other than just stopping you feeling hungry! If you can’t stomach a whole meal, or simply don’t have the time – opt for a protein shake. They are often dismissed as people fear bulking up, but they are much healthier the weight loss shakes people have been drinking for years – that are often packed full of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- If you have slept in because you were having lots of fun trying ‘healthier’ drinks then making lunches probably aren’t at the top of your agenda. You can still make smart choices at the supermarket; stay away from pre-packaged meals – Yes, even the ‘healthy’ ones (by now you must realise where I am going with this). Start off choosing protein; cooked chicken (grilled if poss), mackerel or tinned tuna, lean ham or beef. Then find your carbs; sweet potato can be cut into cubes and cooked in a microwave or at a push you could try a microwave packet of wholemeal rice (not ideal for being eaten every day!) and then finished with some spinach, which you can buy fresh, avocado, tomatoes etc. For snacks, fresh low GI fruit like strawberries, grapefruit and apples, carrot sticks or nuts (count out a portion of 10-15 nuts as although packed with good fats they are high in calories).
- I know you have heard people talk about this FOREVER, but it is really is in your best interest to drink plenty of water throughout the day! Plain is best but it can be flavoured with fruit teabags, lemon slices or fresh mint leaves. Leave the squash out as it just adds unnecessary extra sugar and sweeteners into your diet.
- Just like pre-packaged meals, avoid avoid avoid pre bottled smoothies and juices and most of them are also packed with sugar – don’t fall into the trap of thinking because it’s natural sugar its ok to drink by the bucket load! If you can get a green smoothie or juice made fresh with spinach, kale, or beetroot with some low GI fruit to sweeten then go ahead. As always, steer away from the diet drinks and if you drink tea or coffee, swap out cow’s milk or almond, coconut or hazelnut and swap sugar for honey or agave nectar or go cold turkey!
There you have it! Some top tips for healthier options when you REALLY enjoy beautiful food and drink. And also, like me if you don’t possess the will power to say ‘no’ to dinner invitations.