In a café, pub or restaurant, you have less control over what goes into the dishes you eat. Because of simple economics, many eating establishments will use the cheapest stuff, which likely means industrially manufactured, heavily processed ingredients. Plates of food will also often be loaded with empty carbs and sugar, as they are cheap and fill people up for as long as they are in the venue (though not much after). Protein and veggies are more expensive, so often skimped on. Pizzas are a classic example: a lot of bread and not a lot of topping!
You can’t control everything eating out and you may knowingly want to treat yourself a little. And why not. With our simple steps that shift the balance towards the healthy, without compromising on taste (for more general guidelines, click here), you can actually have it all!
Swap It, Skip It
Nowadays, restaurants are more and more happy to allow you to swap an unhealthy part of a meal for a healthier choice. Instead of chips, ask for more veggies. Replace questionable meat with tofu. Ask to ‘hold the bread’. Choose sweet potato over white potato. The more people do this, the more that the healthier options will become standard on menus.
A classic skip option, which is becoming more common, is the ‘naked burger’. In the media, burgers often a short-cut for the worst of junk food. But if you ditch the bread bun and fries, they can be a good source of protein, with fibre-rich salad thrown in for good measure. And they are yummy! The phrase naked burger is now quite well known. You can even get one in McDonald’s.
Grill, Bake, Steam
Choose dishes which are not fried where possible, as it’s likely they’ll be cooked using highly processed vegetable or seed oils. Typically grilled, baked or steamed options are better for you. Or choose a ‘raw’ dish, like many salads. If you do wish to eat fried food, ask what oil is being used. In Mediterranean, Indian or some ‘health food’ restaurants, there’s a possibility they will use olive oil or ghee. If they do: go back, as it’s quite rare.
My 7 Favourite (Healthier) Meals Out
Scrambled eggs & spinach (with salmon for a treat)
Sunday roast (no spuds; extra veggies and gravy!)
Grilled fish ‘n’ mushy peas ‘n’ curry sauce (no chips)
Chicken tikka or tandoori (oven-baked, not fried)
Souvlaki or kebab (plated; no bread & lots of salad)
Sushi and sashimi (with miso soup for probiotics)
Soups and salads (you can’t go too wrong)
Less Is More
Eat out less, but go for quality. Given the high cost of natural, organic, heathy ingredients, choose higher quality places to eat and you’ll likely be rewarded with better and healthier food. If your meal seems too cheap to be true, just imagine what they are using! Definitely avoid ‘all you can eat’: bad for you in so many ways. Quality establishments might be more expensive, but it’s better to go out a little less often, for the sake of your health. If you’re cooking at home, we have plenty of recipes to inspire you.
A drink with a meal can often be the least healthy part. Avoid sugary soft drinks and packaged juices at all costs. Instead, drink still or sparkling mineral water, herbal teas or freshly squeezed (on the premises) fruit juices.
Similarly with alcohol, try to avoid sugar, which is high in many popular choices. You could your favourite spirit with soda, served ‘long’ (like a vodka with fresh lime and soda or a classic whisky highball), as these are sugar free. Watch out for tonic; it may look like soda water, but it’s full of sugar. Other ‘better’ options include very dry wine and low sugar beer or cider. Of course, alcohol itself is not healthy at all, so go light and intersperse with water. In summer, a white wine spritz, with sparkling water, is a refreshing alternative.