Dietitian explains how to dine out healthily

Coronavirus restrictions are lifting, restaurants are reopening and we’re back to catching up with friends over food. Here, a dietitian explains how you can still continue your healthy eating habits while eating out.

At last – it’s time for a meal that you didn’t cook yourself in your own kitchen, and wasn’t conveniently delivered to your doorstep in a cardboard box or paper bag. Restaurant dining is back, baby!

And if you’re as excited as I am, you’ve probably got (at the bare minimum) your next month or so of restaurant weekend outings pencilled into your calendar already. If you’re hoping to keep these post-iso outings healthy, here are my top five simple dietitian-approved tips for eating out with good health top of mind.

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1. Pay attention to the cooking method

This is pretty obvious, but the cooking method is a major hint at the healthfulness of the meal. Deep-fried foods, for example, are often high in fat (and sodium, too), so it’s best to keep these foods for occasional treats only (read: avoid getting a bowl of hot chippies on the side every single time you go out to eat). Generally speaking, foods that are slow-cooked, sautéed, steamed or stir-fried are a much healthier option.

2. Get the balance right

A healthy meal consists of protein, carbs and non-starchy veggies in a ratio of one to one to two. In case you’re wondering, animal foods (think: meat, seafood, eggs), as well as tofu and legumes, comprise of the protein food group, while potatoes, corn, legumes (again) and any type of grain contribute carbohydrates. Non-starchy veg are essentially any veg that isn’t potatoes, corn and legumes.

With this in mind, it’s easy to tweak your usual order to get the balance right. Instead of digging into a whole pizza, for example, you could split a pizza with your pals and order some cooked veggies or salads on the side. Same goes for pasta. Similarly, instead of piling up a huge plate of rice and topping it with satay chicken, you could pare back the rice a little and include some stir-fried veggies alongside your chicken dish. Get the idea?

3. Change your mindset

Healthy eating isn’t about restriction, so I don’t want you to think you ‘can’t’ eat your favourite not-so-healthy foods. That’s not a healthy mindset, and it won’t help your relationship with food – remember, all foods fit in a healthy diet. Instead of focusing on what you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating when you go out, shift your focus finding meals based on veg and wholegrains instead. That’ll mean the majority of your meal is automatically filled with super nutritious plants – and it doesn’t really matter what else comes along with it.

4. Take it easy on the booze

For many people, a meal out isn’t complete without champagne or a cocktail to start, and a glass (or several) of wine to follow. And while that might mean you’re in for a good time, it’s not the best thing for your health or your waistline. Alcohol is seriously energy-dense and it has also been associated with a long list of health issues. So, when it comes to booze, it’ll pay to slow down, at least a little. Try alternating each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water and make sure you’ve had something to eat before you start.

5. Listen to your body

Dessert menus are oh-so-tempting, I know, but before you order the banoffee pie without even blinking, it’ll pay to check in with your hunger cues, first. Do you genuinely feel like having dessert? Are you still hungry? Or are you bursting at the seams? Perhaps you’re eating dessert simply because it’s on offer. If you truly are in the mood for something sweet, then go for it – but if you’re not, it won’t hurt to go without, because you can always treat yourself another time when you’re really in the mood for it.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.