Topic 7: Dining out doesn’t have to be a healthy-eating disaster

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You can, however, have your fun and eat healthy without feeling boring or missing out on the entertainment, as these great ideas show.

Beware menu ‘red flags’

If even the low-fat options on the menu are described as creamy, stuffed, or crisp, there could be hidden fats. Likewise, look out for au gratin, scalloped, smothered or confit, which usually mean the food has a hefty dose of cream and/or cheese or is cooked in fat or butter. Breaded is no better than battered or frittered, for example, and tempura isn’t much better.

Ask the staff

A restaurant’s staff should be able to answer most questions you have about your meal.

The first thing to ask is whether the restaurant offers a nutrition information sheet about their meals. Some restaurants offer this on their menu, some have a printed copy, and there are some that don’t have it at all.

If the restaurant doesn’t have nutritional information about your meal, you can ask about the sodium content to learn if there’s added salt.  This will give you a good indication on the healthiness of the dish.

Also, some restaurants offer a ‘senior portion’, which is a smaller version of the regular dish. If senior portions aren’t available, ask for half of the dish to be packed for takeaway before it’s even served, to avoid being tempted into overeating.

Order smarter

As tempting as a starter or a basket of bread rolls can be,  it’s best to avoid the extra kilojoules or only consume a half of portion. If your meal comes with chips or a baked potato on the side, ask instead for a side salad or steamed vegetables.

Also, don’t forget to ask how the main meal is cooked – request grilled, boiled, or baked for a healthier option.

Fight peer pressure

The peer pressure to “let loose” while eating out is strong, but one way of looking like you’re living it up while still keeping control of your portion size, split a meal between two of you so that you can have a bit without feeling guilty.  

If you’re on your own or your friends or family members aren’t keen to go halves, you can always ask the waiter to box up half of the meal before it even comes to the table.  Save those calories for tomorrow!

Eating out doesn’t have to mean missing out. Challenge yourself the next time you’re dining out to make a healthier option – you’ll find it surprisingly rewarding.

Contact Uniting about health or homecare services today Uniting has services throughout NSW and ACT that can help you age well, stay strong and manage your health.