Eating out fast food on a regular basis can lead to a host of different health problems. Still, the quick-and-cheap temptation can often be hard to resist. As an informed customer, you can make healthier choices and still enjoy the price and convenience of fast food restaurants. Fast food is cheap, convenient, filling, and to many of us it tastes good.
Eating out means that you have little control over how the food is prepared or how large the portion is. Foods eaten out tend to be higher in fat and research has shown that those who eat out regularly generally have higher intakes of fat, salt and calories. Studies have also shown that eating with friends can tempt us to overeat. Meals with multiple courses eaten over longer periods and with alcohol are all associated with overindulgence. Large serving bowls and spoons increase the likelihood of piling more food on your plate than you usually eat.
Unlike packaged food, foods bought from cafes, restaurants etc don’t have to carry nutritional information and so opting for the healthiest option might not always be obvious, or easy. However, with some knowledge and thought, eating out can be enjoyable and healthy!
General tips on eating out healthily
If you’re unsure as to what something is, or what it contains – ask! If the waiter/waitress doesn’t know, then the chef will.
Think ahead, if you know you’re eating out later and it could be a lavish affair, choose wisely earlier in the day to keep calories, fat, sugar and salt intakes under control. Don’t eat an extra course just to be polite.
Only order a sweet after the main course, and only if still hungry. Opt for sorbets, or fruit dishes to balance out a heavy main course.
Think about sharing a course with a companion, if the portions look large.
Speak up about how you’d like a dish prepared e.g. ask for no mayonnaise, dressing on the side.
You’re more likely to overeat at an ‘all you can eat’ style buffet.
Choose side orders of salad or vegetables to fill up on.
Cut off any visible fat from meat to keep saturated fat intake down.
Look out for smaller portions i.e. a main meal option as a starter size.
Opt for dishes which are grilled, baked, steamed, poached or cooked in own juice rather than fried.
Check the menu for dressings on salads and ask for it to be served separately. An otherwise healthy and nutritious salad could be drowned in a high fat sauce, bumping up its calorie content.
Avoid cheese, cream or butter-based sauces
If you’re a cheese lover, think about sharing the cheese board option to keep saturated fat, salt and calorie intakes in check.”