How to make healthy choices when dining out

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Feb 4, 04:14 PM in and . No comments.

Are you off out to dinner tonight? Special occasion? Don’t panic, that special meal out shouldn’t mean the end of your healthy eating plan.

Special occasions and celebrations often revolve around eating out. It is important that these are still enjoyable, even though you are trying to eat more healthily.

Tips to remember

  • Do not miss meals during the day to save up calories.
  • Have a small snack of fruit or a glass of water before you go out; this should help take the edge off your hunger.
  • Skip a course e.g. starter or dessert, or share a portion with somebody else.
  • Avoid fried foods, dishes in pastry “en croute” and creamy sauces.
  • Choose a large portion of vegetables or salad to help fill your plate. Try to avoid ordering butter or dressing for salad/ vegetables. If butter or dressings are provided try to avoid adding them.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum to avoid extra calories, and drink plenty of water and/or other low calorie drinks.
  • Remember to savour the ambience and enjoy the company – eating out isn’t just about the food.
  • It may be wise to avoid banquets/ buffets or “all you can eat” sessions as potentially these could lead to overeating.

Healthier Options

British and Continental

Starters and Dips : Best choices, salad or vegetables (such as asparagus) without dressing, clear soup, melon with ham, seafood salad, mussels in wine (not with cream), grapefruit.

Try to avoid creamy soups, pates, prawn cocktails or any other fried or oily starter. Adding butter to bread

Main Meal : Best choices include pasta in a tomato and vegetable, seafood or spinach and ricotta sauce; plain grilled meat or fish with boiled potato or rice with lots of vegetables/ salad; vegetable, seafood or chicken risotto; one slice of vegetable or seafood pizza with salad on the side.
Try to avoid fried meat or fish; chips and roast or sauté potatoes; anything in pastry (en croute); gravy and most sauces

Dessert: Best choices: fresh fruit, fruit salads, sorbet, one scoop of ice cream. Meringue nest with fruit.
Try to avoid – desserts made with cream or pastry e.g. gateaux, tarts, cheesecake or cheese and biscuits.
Consider sharing a portion of dessert.


Starters and Dips: Best choices include salsa (tomato and chilli) and bean dips, gazpacho (chilled tomato soup) and vegetable sticks if available. Try to avoid guacamole, corn chips, sour cream and cheese

Main Meal: Best choices include soft flour or corn tortillas with bean, chicken or beef and vegetable fillings(e.g. fajitas) – have one or two with plenty of side salad, bean chilli with boiled rice, fish with rice and salad. Try to avoid fried foods such as fried tortillas and avoid adding high fat dips to meals.

Dessert : Best choices include, fruit if available, sorbet or one scoop of ice cream.


Starters and Dips: Best choices – tandori chicken or chicken tikka.
Try to avoid – deep fried dishes such as onion bhajis, pakoras, samosas or poppadoms.

Main Meal: Best choices – Tandoori or madras with chicken, prawn or vegetables. Dhals or channa, chick peas are usually a good choice. Choose plain basmati/boiled rice, roti or chappati (without butter or ghee). Try to avoid, creamy dishes such as kormas, massalas and passandas. Pilau/fried rice and naan bread. Consider sharing a main dish with someone plus perhaps a side dish between two

Dessert : Most Indian desserts are high in sugar and /or fat. Choose fresh fruit if available.

Chinese and Thai

Starters and Dips : Try to avoid prawn crackers and deep fried foods such as spring rolls, crispy seaweed, prawn toasts or crispy duck pancakes. Best choices, clear (not creamy) soups e.g. won ton soup, chicken and sweetcorn soup or steamed dumplings.

Main Meal : Best choices, stir fried meals e.g. chicken, fish or prawns in black bean or oyster sauce or with bean sprouts, stir fried vegetables and steamed or grilled fish or prawns with steamed rice or noodles. Try to avoid deep fried dishes, fatty meats such as duck and curries, including Thai red and green which contain coconut milk which is high in saturated fat

Dessert : Choose these: -Sorbet, one scoop of ice cream, lychees or fruit salad.

Remember, in a restaurant it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions about how a dish is cooked. You are the customer therefore, you have the right to ask for a meal as you want!

Have a great time!

Tags: Chinese Food, Eating Out, Indian Food, Mexican Food, Thai Food

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


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