My husband and I love eating out (well we really love it on date nights and used to eat out a whole lot more pre babies) so we know how hard it is to eat well when you're dining out especially if you do so regularly.
We love really good quality food and desserts and so for us it has been practicing the principle of moderation. On date nights and other special occasions we go all out and order whatever we feel like on the menu so we are not depriving ourselves of one of our greatest joys in life, and then the regular meals we may need to grab on the go or at the weekend with toddlers in tow we choose to eat in line with how we eat usually as best as the menu offers.
When food is taken home or eaten at a cafe for convenience it is a good idea to try and eat as well as possible and save the decadence for special occasions or when you are especially craving something (this is ok-in moderation)!
I used to be out for a lot of meetings too which would inevitably be over coffee so my eating habits were disrupted by a disproportionate amount of caffeine or liquid intake which meant I was never hungry at meal times, buzzing from caffeine and suffering from fluctuating blood sugar levels (making me shakey, feeling nauseous and start craving sugary things). I had to learn in the end that it's ok to not have a coffee (or anything really) if someone else is, or that it is ok to take my own snacks that I would usually eat at that time.
Here are a few ways I try and make healthy decisions while eating out.
- Look for greens & protein, both of these make up a good meal with the greens providing you the nutrition you need from fresh produce, and the protein filling you up and helping to stabilise blood sugar levels. If salad options don't have meat you can request a poached egg with it.
- Look for complex carbohydrates, these include: and take longer to digest so you won't be hungry again so soon!
- Avoid sugar! As tempting as that cake or slice is with your morning coffee, do your best to do without on an ordinary day. Would you eat it at home with your morning tea today or do you just want it because it is there and looks good is often what I ask myself while out!
- Look for fresh stuff, veggies and fruit whether it means you need to order a side with you meal, it is just as important to eat fresh produce while you're out as it is at home. Lots of places now have fruit cups or Acai bowls that are half fruit and make a good accompaniment to coffee particularly mid Arvo!
- Avoid white breads, flours or rice (if you can) and stick to the whole grain options if they are there.
- Try a raw ball if they have them! I love these especially mid morning or mid Arvo.
- Avoid deep fried things and try to go for grilled or steamed options.
- Avoid oily meals.
- If you have already had enough caffeine (or milk) for the day but would still like a drink try a smoothie, a fresh veggie juice or a warm turmeric latte. Sparkling water with lemon is also I nice refreshing day time drink to have out instead of sugar beverages.
- Choose vegetable based sauces rather than rich creamy ones.
- Save dessert for special occasions. Usually once I've left the restaurant I don't crave it anymore so it's a good discipline to not act on the whim and get one every time. If I'm still craving something sweet when I get home I have some fruit or a teaspoon of honey and that really does the trick!
- Sometimes I just actually ask myself is this healthy? If it is then I'll go with it, if it's not then I'll try and find a better option.
- Pack your own snacks. It really is ok to take your own snacks or a piece of fruit to a cafe if you are grabbing a coffee with a friend or for a meeting. Over the years I have spent many hours working in cafes and I usually take a banana, raw ball and some days even my lunch and eat that with a coffee. It's really fine. It means you're eating well and saving money.
- Share meals. Sometimes it's better to share a meal with a friend rather than get two whole meals each. We often don't realise it but portion size plays a big part in how well our digestive system functions so don't over do it and save some money in the process. We often will get one big main and two sides so we variety and enough food without going overboard. Plus we like to try a variety of things so smaller options enables us to do this!
- Choose thick cut potatoes or wedges rather than fries as fries are often made of reconstituted potato flour and not real potatoes.
I'm sure there are much more scientific ways and reasons to eat well while out but these are my tips and things I find work for us when we're out and about.
Some cuisines that are usually a bit healthier include:
(Due to ingredient use and cooking methods)
- Modern Australian
- Specialist organic and health cafes
If you would like some ideas of places that provide healthy but delicious food and drink you can check out www.greengoodnessco.com.au they are a blog/website that is regularly updating their lists of the cool and healthy places to eat!