Eating Out and Weight Loss
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
Q: I eat out a lot, mainly in connection with work. However, most of the meals in the restaurants I go to seem to be laden with fat. What do you suggest?
A: Eating out can be tricky if you’re trying to lose weight as unfortunately, many chefs tend not to consider the needs of slimmers or healthy eaters when they’re designing menus! Having said that, it is still possible to eat out regularly without blowing your calorie allowance or undoing all your hard work.
Plan in Advance
It sounds as though you tend to know in advance when you’ll be eating out, so start planning as early as possible and put aside some extra calories each day, which you can then spend on your meal later in the week.
It’s often all the little things that pile on the calories when you eat out – a bread roll with butter or flavoured oil, olives marinated in oil, side orders of fries, oil-based salad dressings, cream with dessert or coffee and after dinner mints, for example.
Avoid all these extras and you could save up to 1,000 calories to start with, without even trying too hard.
Cooking Methods and Ingredients
You should also aim to steer clear of dishes that are deep-fried or include pastry, rich sauces, cream or loads of cheese – they all pack a high calorie content.
When ordering your meal, don’t be afraid to ask if the chef can adapt a dish to suit your personal needs – after all, it’s what all the celebs do! This might be as simple as requesting that a sauce be served in a separate pot so you can add as much or as little as you want, asking for extra vegetables instead of potatoes, enquiring whether your steak could be grilled rather than pan-fried or requesting that a salad comes without dressing.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave, you could even try asking for something that’s not on the menu – for example, if you can see that the fruit salad includes melon, you could always try asking for a slice of melon to start with, even if it’s not on the menu as a starter.
Don’t feel obliged to go for the full three courses, either – if you can get away with just a main course, so much the better. Alternatively, ask for two starters and have one of these as a main course.
Good choices to start with include smoked salmon, prawn cocktail (ask for it to come without dressing), vegetable or minestrone soup, melon, and tomato and mozzarella salad (with balsamic vinegar rather than dressing).
If low-calorie options are in short supply on the menu, simply order a side salad and have this as a starter.
For main courses, don’t be fooled into thinking that veggie options will automatically be lower in calories – that cauliflower and broccoli bake might sound healthy but it will almost certainly come with a rich, calorie-laden cheese sauce.
In fact, meat, poultry and fish dishes can often be the best choices – a grilled lean steak with salad (minus the fries), for example, may contain as little as 500 calories.
Pasta can also be a good option providing it comes with a tomato sauce rather than a creamy one – and it’s guaranteed to fill you up so that you won’t have room for a dessert.
When it comes to dessert, fresh fruit salad or sorbets are the best option. Most other puddings are laden with calories, especially if they include pastry or cream and so it’s best to give them a miss.
Unfortunately, cheese isn’t a better option either – most restaurants will easily serve a minimum of 4oz of cheese, potentially providing around 500 calories.
Finally, keep a check on the amount you have to drink and employ all the usual tricks. Opt for slimline mixers, add soda water to wine and alternate between alcoholic drinks and low-cal non-alcoholic drinks. And if it’s a business lunch, use your hectic workload or an afternoon meeting as an excuse for remaining teetotal!
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