When you’re trying to slim down, it can be difficult to resit the call of a restaurant meal. But often laden with rich creamy sauces, copious amounts of salt and butter, and the larger than life portion sizes, restaurant meals can be an inevitable minefield for those looking to lose some excess weight.
This doesn’t mean you should ban eating out altogether. After all, eating out is one of the ways we catch up with family and friends, so cutting these meals out of your life completely would just be anti-social and depressing!
The best way to work around this is to order wisely. By knowing which foods won’t derail your diet, you can still enjoy the experience of eating out with loved ones, take a night off from cooking AND feel safe knowing that you’re still making a good choice for your health.
To help you make the best decision for your waistline, we’ve pulled together this helpful list of some of the healthiest options that you can order at some of the more common restaurant choices.
Typically a carbohydrate party in a meal, Italian can be a tricky one to navigate if you’re looking to reduce your calories – but definitely not impossible!
While pizza and huge bowls of pasta should be avoided, this doesn’t mean you should omit carbs altogether, as this can leave you feeling deprived. Instead, it’s all about considering your portion sizes. Forgo a main size portion of spaghetti and instead order an entrée size with a side salad. Also forget the bread at the beginning of the meal, as this will inevitably drive up the total calories of your meal.
Also be wise about your sauce choices. Stay away from cream and butter-based sauces, such as Carbonara, which can be extremely high in calories, and instead chose tomato-based sauces like Napoletana or Marinara.
While certainly delicious and full of flavour, Indian can unfortunately be heavy on the calories with its array of rich sauces filled with coconut cream and ghee. Couple this with buttery naan bread and samosas on the side and you’re looking at a meal that could blow half of your daily calorie intake!
The best way to make sure a meal out at an Indian restaurant doesn’t completely derail your diet is to skip the starters. From deep-fried samosas to rich paneer, many Indian appetizers are high in fat and carbohydrates making them extremely calorie dense.
When it comes to the main event, try to steer clear of curries covered with rich creamy sauces and instead chose tandoori items. These are made in a traditional tandoor oven and, due to the method of dry roasting, the dishes tend to be lean.
Legume-based dishes are also a good choice, with main meals such as dal typically being made with much less oil and ghee than usual curries. The addition of legumes will also add fibre to your meal, helping to fill you up faster.
Perhaps one of the healthiest choices when it comes to eating at a restaurant, the simplicity of Japanese cuisine make sit much easier to know exactly what’s in your meal.
One of the best choices to make with regards to keeping your diet on track is sushi, with sashimi and nigiri being the best possible choices. Typically just made from fresh seafood and sushi rice, these satisfying morsels are both delicious and high in protein. But be warned, a lot of restaurants will load up sushi with an array of Japanese mayonnaise and other sauces that will boost the calorie density. Try to chose the simplest forms of sushi from the menu.
Also avoid the deep-fried options, such as tempura, crumbed tonkastsu and okonomiyaki. If your friends are keen to have starters opt for a seaweed salad or bowl of miso soup instead, both of which are packed with great micro-nutrients!
As a general guide, laksa and creamy curries contain a significant amount of saturated fat and excess kilojoules. And the all-time crowd pleaser, Pad Thai, is high in energy and fat due to the fried noodles, large amounts of sauce and chopped peanuts.
Fresh rice paper rolls or steamed dumplings are a great entrée alternative to deep-fried spring rolls and fish cakes. And by choosing main courses that don’t contain coconut milk, such as Thai beef salad, green papaya salad or a simple stir-fry with steamed rice, you’ll be slashing those calories.
With anything you order, remember that your plate should contain one-quarter of complex carbohydrate, one-quarter of lean protein and should be half-filled with vegetables. So If you order a stir-fry, be sure to include a generous serve of veg and choose one with a lighter sauce (such as lemongrass and chilli). Steer clear of satay and oyster sauces, which are high in fat and sodium.
Fish and Chips
As a standard Australian family favourite for a quick meal out, it would be sad to say goodbye to a night of fish and chips for good. But with a range of healthier options available nowadays, making the right choice for your health is much easier!
It goes without saying that the dim sims, potato cakes and deep-fried calamari should be completely left out of your order – and don’t even get us started on the deep-fried Mars Bar!
Instead of battered fish choose a grilled fillet of your favourite catch and instead of smothering it in tartare, simply go for a light lemon juice dressing. And if you really want to do right by your diet, swap your chips for a side salad instead. But if you really can’t completely forgo them, share a small portion of chips with your loved ones and have some salad on the side too – it’s important to remember those veggies!
While eating out while on a diet can be a seemingly daunting and impossible task, there’s no need to cut it out of your life completely. If you really want to achieve sustainable weight loss, you need a long-term approach that still allows you to socialise with those you love spending time with.
So instead of shunning the restaurants, simply follow our guide above to ensure you’re making healthier choices that don’t hinder your diet and derail all your hard work!