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Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well!

A healthy dose of my diet, nutrition and lifestyle hacks to improve your health. Every bite counts!

Post: Blog2_Post

A nutritionist's guide to eating out

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

When healthy eating is your life’s work, people assume you never ‘have a day off.’ To some degree, that’s true. You won’t see me in a drive thru and I certainly won’t be getting a $3 meal-deal of any kind!

But I do love food more than most people and I love eating out.

Like you, I also get sick of cooking day in day out and coming up with new healthy recipes - or even my trusty old ones. When I eat out, I stick with the principles of a whole food mostly plant based diet. And I don’t go overboard. Mostly anyway!

Here are my best tips to help you enjoy dinners out and nights off now and then, without sacrificing the effort you make to keep healthy...

healthy foods when eating out
healthy take-away food ideas

1. 80/20 Foodtude

Remember the 80/20 rule? If you have my guide Wholefood for the Whole Family, you’ll know one of my healthy eating tips is to aim for 100% healthy eating at home, leaving plenty of wriggle room for when you’re out. When you eat well most of the time, you’re not so worried about a little splurge sometimes. A healthy attitude toward eating is almost as important, long term, as healthy food itself.

2. Stick with real foods

That $3 meal-deal I mentioned earlier? Think about it. What actual food can you buy for $3 dollars? Even an apple costs $1 these days. Now take out staff, rent and advertising costs from that $3. How much food is actually in that $3 meal? It's just not possible.

When you choose healthy food, it needs to actually be food.

There are heaps of take-away and restaurants that use real foods. You may be surprised to know my husband runs a traditional Italian pizza restaurant. This is not a shameless plug, just a great example. His pizza’s are made with stone ground sourdough and topped with whole food ingredients: fresh vegetables and herbs, local seafood, traditionally prepared cured meats and cheeses. Compare that with a fast-food style pizza, on a thick white base, pan-fried, covered in processed cheese and deli meats with scarcely a vegetable in sight. There's a massive difference.

3. Go traditional and go whole

In Australia we're blessed to have a variety of international cuisines at our fingertips. Cultural foods favour whole food ingredients, healthy preparation and traditional cooking methods. Ingredients are simple whole foods: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, herbs' spices, whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. They are often soaked, slow cooked, pickled or prepared and served in ways that enhance digestion and optimise nutrient value. Aside from the common Thai, Indian, Japanese etc., there are countless traditional foods to try: Mexican, Turkish, Greek, Nepalese, Moroccan, Israeli and so on.

Be conscious that as per the Pizza example, traditional foods can still veer off the healthy track when they become 'fast' food or packaged foods.

Here are some things to look for and things to avoid when choosing traditional foods:

healthy eating out
Healthy traditional pizza

Avoid this when eating out:

  • Foods that are deep fried. Vegetable oil is never healthy. Ever.*

  • Thick, heavy, creamy and sweet sauces. These are high in sugar, salt and artificial thickeners.

  • Foods that taste very salty. They are!

  • Don't order unnecessary extras like bread, foccaccia, prawn crackers etc. before or with meals.

  • In fact, avoid breads, high gluten and high GI (white carbohydrate) foods all together. A little jasmine or basmati rice now & then is OK.

  • Don't add soft drink. It adds nothing except damaging blood sugar levels, unstable mood and energy, inflammation and instant calories.

Look for these healthy options when eating out:

  • Meals with a high vegetable content

  • Foods that are grilled, roasted, baked, stewed or slow cooked

  • If it’s local and wild caught, go for the seafood option

  • If available, go with a vegetarian option

  • If you’re having rice as a side, choose plain, not fried

  • Always add a side serving of salad or vegetables to fill you up

My favourite healthy food picks by cuisine

  • Greek: The seafood! BBQ octopus, prawns, salmon, Greek salad, dips, olives - YUM!

  • Vietnamese: Lots of great one-pot stews, fresh rice paper wraps, amazing salads

  • Thai: Rice paper rolls, larb, fresh salads; baked fish, seafood, vegetable or tofu curries and laksa

  • Indian: Any dhal with veggies + basmati rice. Also slow cooked fish and meat dishes with vegetables

  • Japanese: Sashimi, Teriyaki Fish + veg, seaweed salad, poke bowls, miso soup

  • Lebanese: Felafals, hummos, tabbouleh, fattoush, dips (pretty much everything!)

  • Mexican: Bean bowls, vegetarian nachos (no cheese), guac + corn chips, fish tacos

Other healthy reminders

  • Don’t over do it. Remember the healthiest people in the world say eat until you’re 80% full.

  • On that note, stop when you’re full. I know the waitress is offering dessert, but if you have to undo your top button to fit it in, chances are you’ll be undoing that button permanently in future!

  • That doesn’t mean don’t have dessert. If you have room and you feel like it, go for it. Sometimes you’ll have your cake and eat it. And that’s OK. It’s all about the balance.

Food it meant to be enjoyed! I hope this helps you enjoy your ‘nights off’ a bit more. *I say never, but I’m like a seagull when it comes to hot chips! Special occasions only…

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