Feeling Great: Make the right choices when eating out for a healthy diet

A Mediterranean dish can be a healthier option when eating out.
A Mediterranean dish can be a healthier option when eating out.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve now seem far behind us. The turkey’s been eaten, the Prosecco has run dry, the last few Celebrations have been demolished and we’re we well into tackling the next festive ritual – a New Year health kick.

And if like many people you’ve made a New Year resolution to shift a few pounds, or just choose healthier choices in general – eating can be a challenge. Especially when those relatives you didn’t get to spend time with over Christmas plan get-togethers that involve big meals, co-workers want to go for drinks, and you’ve got birthday dinners to attend.

I don’t know about you, but each week since New Year’s Day, I’ve been invited out to eat in restaurants at least twice a week, if not more!

And even though eating out is usually blamed as a culprit for making it harder to make healthy choices and stick to our new eating habits – you can still have your cake and eat it too.

Which is why I wanted to share some suggestions about how you can eat healthier in restaurants so you can keep on the right track with your health goals.

Making healthy choices starts with where you’re eating. Menus from American, Italian and Chinese restaurants tend to heave the least healthiest options. When deciding, opt for cuisines centred around whole grains, veggies, good fats and lean protein (Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese), for a more nutritious meal.

Also consider eating at places with menus that change seasonally, as this means they’re likely to cook up fresh, seasonal, local produce.

But what if your partner and friends don’t want to go to one of those restaurants? Well, there’s a solution for that. Think leftovers.

If the Italian in town is the only place your friends want to go, you don’t have to just order the salad. While portion sizes have grown over the years that doesn’t mean you have to skip past the meal you’ve been eyeing up on the menu. Instead take advantage of the bigger portion sizes, and order what you want with the mind set that half of it will come home with you.

The best leftovers are ones that won’t suffer from re-heating or hanging out in your fridge for a day.

Plus, when you have leftovers you’re getting a two-for-one deal, and it feels great to save a bit of money.

Even if you’re going out for an evening meal, eat all day long as you usually would.

If you know you’ll be eating at a place that serves rich food and big portions, one of the best ways to avoid overdoing it isn’t to ‘make room’ for dinner later, but to eat (as you normally would) throughout the day. Your body isn’t balanced when you’re hungry, and skipping meals to make up for a big one can cause all sorts of havoc with the body – including storing MORE weight.

So aim to eat a filling, healthy breakfast, a light lunch and some healthy snacks. It’ll be easier to resist more indulgence.

Another thing, you know that bread basket a lot of restaurants bring out while you’re deciding on what to order that’s always tempting? You don’t need it.

If you really want to snack before your main meal is served, opt for a lighter starter like a prawn cocktail, or stuffed mushrooms.

And one more tip, if you want your food cooked a certain way to make it healthier, don’t be afraid to put in a special request. Most places are willing to adapt their meals to suit your taste.

It’s amazing how much power we have as diners that we never realise we can use.

Sticking to a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid dining out.

It’s all about making different choices, and enjoying the food we put in our mouths. Restrictions will only make it harder in the long-run, and make it more likely for you to sway off track.

Here’s to sticking to healthier choices.

For more ways on how to stick to healthy habits and create new ones, click here to get your copy of Paul’s book, The Healthy Habit: www.thehealthyhabitbook.com

Paul Gough