Wednesday, 24 March 2010

DIARY: Eating Out Doesn't Have To Mean Overeating

This past week, I've been completely rushed off my feet with work, hospital appointments with the granny and travelling to visit friends. As the old saying goes 'fail to plan, plan to fail' - it's resulted in me eating out a lot and generally just eating far too much. Unfortunately even for the most disciplined dieters amongst us, eating out often means making the wrong food choices.

A visit to see my cousins this weekend (evidence to the left) resulted in a two day long carb, cocktail and wine fest, although very enjoyable - not very wise. I'm dreading hitting the scales! So this has got me thinking about the relevance of making informed choices when eating out; visiting a restaurant doesn't have to be a diet sabotaging event. I find it so difficult to avoid the dessert menu temptations and extra sides but these choices always replace my ravenous previous self with a guilt-ridden sluggish feeling. Below I've formed a list of choices I've concocted from nutritional information on the internet. The lack of nutritional information freely available for restaurants in the UK is quite worrying - why won't these chains supply us with nutritional information? Maybe the results would be too shocking to publish. I've been told that the Food Standards Agency are working on this problem. Hopefully like our neighbours across the pond, we'll soon be able to know the exact calorie contents of all of the foods we eat. For now, here's what I've come up with for large high street restaurant chains. Some of the restaurant choices may seem a bit daft from a dieter's perspective, but let's face it - we all have a social life. Whether it be taking your kids to McDonald's or having a girly night in with a bottle of wine and a pizza - dieting's about making healthy choices, and there's nothing wrong with an occasional treat. The list includes a couple of the lowest calorie meals available (one rabbit food, one human food):

Pizza Hut

Classic Caesar Salad 366cals
Individual Italian Margarita Pizza 176cals per slice, 4 slices per pizza

Pizza Express
Pollo Salad (no dough sticks, no dressing) 295cals
Four Seasons Pizza 677cals

Chicken Breast Sandwich no mayo 458cals

Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad 182cal
Roasted Chicken and Tomato Panini 321cals

Pret a Manger
Pole & Line Caught Tuna Niciose Salad 205 cals
Slim Pret Chicken Avocado 231cals

Caffe Nero
Tuna with Herbed Potato Salad 254cals
Tuna Salad Sandwich 254cals

Chicken Salad (no bacon) 115cals
Hamburger 250cals
Chicken McNuggets 250cals

Burger King
Flame Grilled Chicken Salad 128cals
Hamburger 275cals

…and that is all the nutritional information I could find. Frankie & Benny's, TGI Friday's, Chiquitos etc etc haven't opted to provide us with our much needed nutritional information - lets hope that soon changes. But eating out is supposed to be fun, right? So I've decided to pop together a few little tips for making informed choices when hitting our favourite eateries when there's no nutritional information going handy. Now all I need to do is convince myself to follow these rules...
  • Check out the menu online before you go you're less likely to be tempted by the yummy descriptions when you arrive!
  • Never arrive STARVING; you'll be overwhelmed by your cravings as soon as you arrive. Have a little snack if you can, a banana or apple will do.
  • Try to avoid anything with lots of cheese, creamy sauces (I know, I love carbonara too!), anything fried and also try to cut down on your carbs!
  • If you're given a choice of sides avoid chips and roasties, go for rice or boiled potatoes instead, although still carbalicious, they're a much healthier choice.
  • Don't be fooled by salads! More often than not, the creamy dressings they're drowning in provide you with more calories than a delicious alternative! Ask them to go easy on the dressings or serve them separately to be safe.
  • Remember steamed, boiled and grilled are our friends. Fried and crispy are not!
  • Try and stick to chicken, lean meats and fish based meals, served with veggies or salads. These can be equally as delicious as your regular choices and save you over-doing it on the calorie front. (Also, the less carbs you eat, the less you'll crave - bonus!!)
  • Desserts can be the killer. If you do have the overwhelming urge to feed your sweet tooth, go for something light like sorbet, meringue or even ice cream. These will still be loaded with sugar but if its a one off, we can let it slip!
  • Lastly, don't eat too quickly (I swear I could speed eat for England). If you slow down a little, you can give your body time to digest your food, meaning you'll probably feel the full feeling a little quicker.
  • And remember, the worst choices are likely to be the most tempting on the menu.
Don't sweat it if you over-do it a little. Have fun and get straight back on it tomorrow!


  1. Great post - it is really difficult trying to choose healthy food when going out for a meal - will try these tips next time! Loving your blog. x

  2. I just found your blog and wow! Your before and after pic is so different. You look amazing x

  3. Hiya Victoria,
    Thanks so much for your lovely comment! It is quite a scary comparison. Thank you for reading my blog too :)
    Hope you're well!