Eating well doesn't mean you can't go out for a nice meal at your favourite restaurant. In fact, many restaurants do meals that are just as healthy as the food you cook at home.
But where should you go if you want to eat healthy food?
All cuisines have their healthy (and unhealthy) options - you just need to know which ones to go for. Consider this your little pocket guide for eating out!
Select your country to skip to the healthy options:
|Japanese||Spanish and Mexican||Thai||Vietnamese|
Healthy tips for dining out
- Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side so you’re in control of how much you use.
- Watch the alcohol – a small glass is fine. Start with water or a diet drink and alternate with alcoholic drinks.
- Opt for grilled fish and meats and ask the waiter not to dress or 'garnish' the meat with butter or oil.
- Choose tasty seasonal vegetables or fresh salads instead of chips – chips typically contain the most fat of the meal.
- Finish your meal with fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts and cheeses.
- Say no thanks to crumbed or fried foods or those served with creamy or buttery sauces.
When eating Chinese clear soups are great options, as are steamed fish/seafood and steamed dumplings or wontons (but just make sure you specify that you only want your dumplings/wontons steamed, as some restaurants pan-fry them once they've been steamed).
Other good choices include stir-fries, chow-meins, chicken and fish dishes in chilli, soy or oyster sauce, braised dishes and black bean sauce-based dishes, plus fragrant jasmine tea.
Steer clear of fried dishes like fried rice and dim sum, spare ribs, prawn toast, prawn crackers, the crispy skin on Peking duck, sweet and sour pork (the batter is deep-fried), rich satay sauces, lemon chicken and battered dishes.
Simply cooked Greek dishes are best – try tzatziki, stuffed vine leaves and grilled fish and meats like souvlaki and simply-dressed salads and vegetables.
Traditional Greek recipes that can be rich in kilojoules are those based on fried cheese like saganaki and spanakopita (spinach pie in filo pastry), moussaka, and rich pastry and honey-laden sweet dishes such as baklava.
At Indian restaurants, choose foods cooked in the tandoor (clay oven), seafood-, vegetable- and lentil-based dishes such as dhansak (cooked without coconut milk) or dhal, grilled pappadums and raita. Look for tomato- or yoghurt-based sauces without added butter or ghee and enjoy with plain naan, roti/chapatti or steamed rice.
When ordering Italian pasta dishes, choose tomato-based sauces such as Napolitano, Arrabiata and Marinara but, since portion size can be a killer at Italian restaurants, ask for an entrée size. Enjoy with salads flavoured with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and finish with fresh fruit salads and non-creamy gelato such as lemon. If you like pizza (who doesn’t?), go for thin crust types with extra vegetables; ask for only half the cheese and say no to fatty meats such as salami and pepperoni.
Japanese is a great eating out option especially when you choose fresh sushi, sashimi and nori rolls, miso soup, udon noodle soups and yakiatori (grilled chicken skewers), soba (buckwheat) noodles, and sukiyaki (beef, vegetables, tofu and noodles simmered in a pot).
Spanish and Mexican
When eating Spanish or Mexican, choose frijoles (bean) and fresh, tomato-based salsa dips, gazpacho and bean-based soups to start. Good main courses include fish and grilled meats with rice (but watch portion sizes as it's easy to overdo it), chilli con carne with lots of beans, fajitas/tostada/burrito/enchilada with fish, lean meat, chicken and beans; however, ask the waiter to go easy on the cheese and guacamole.
Good choices at Thai restaurants include clear soups, plain satay skewers, fragrant stir-fries and curries without coconut milk e.g. jungle curry. Dishes such as meat and fish salads, mixed vegetable stir-fries, steamed rice and tom yum soup are also good options.
Not-so-great Thai choices include deep-fried starters (such as spring rolls or curry puffs), coconut milk–based curries and soups (like Massaman, red and green curries) and anything covered with rich satay sauce.
Vietnamese offers plenty of healthy choices – go for freshly grilled and stir-fried Vietnamese fish, seafood and meat dishes, rice paper rolls and clear soups.
Try to avoid fried prawn crackers, fried noodles and rice dishes ('dry' and ‘crispy’ options tend to be fried) and battered dishes. Also be wary of poultry served with its skin – remove it to reduce fat and kilojoules.