Most of us eat out regularly, whether it’s dinner at a good restaurant or lunch from the sandwich shop near the office. Eating out can be fun and it makes a lovely change from cooking and eating at home. If you only do it once a week, you don’t need to worry too much about what you’re ordering. However, if you buy your lunch every day or have dinner out or takeaway several times a week, you would probably benefit from giving your choices some thought. It is much harder to get all the nutrients your body requires when you have little control over the ingredients in your meal. A few tips on what to choose and what to avoid can help you minimise the indigestion / sluggishness / guilt and get what your body needs.
If you buy lunch, aim for variety – don’t just eat a supermarket sandwich every day. Many of them contain mayonnaise (full of saturated fat and little else) and there will never be much in the way of veggies in it, which will leave you needing to eat more at dinner to get your 5 a day.
Burritos are great if you’re active and hungry – choose the wholewheat wrap if available and make sure you have the beans and salad. Rice or salad bowls are lighter if you’re just sitting at your desk for the day. Middle eastern food such as falafels, humous and salads are really tasty and nutritious too (see photo), as are Asian stir fries or noodles, especially if you choose the veggie and cashew nut option.
A good lunch can come in many different forms – just try to include plenty of veggies, some protein and wholegrain carbs if possible. And don’t forget that variety is the key to getting all the nutrients you need and will help you avoid the boring old sandwich rut.
At dinner, the same rules apply about veggies. Whatever type of food you’re eating, order a side dish of vegetables or a salad. The only salad to avoid is a caesar salad – the dish that has almost as many calories (and probably fewer nutrients) as a McDonalds cheeseburger and fries! To keep a meal light, skip the bread and have a small portion of potatoes or rice with your meat or fish. If you’re eating a pasta dish, don’t order the garlic bread as well.
Indian food can be really nutritious. There is usually a good choice of vegetable dishes, including smaller side dishes and super-healthy legumes are widely used in Indian cooking. Go for the drier, tandoori style main dishes with a mixed vegetable curry and dhal. Whether you’re eating in a restaurant or having takeaway, avoid ordering double carbs, ie. rice and naan bread – just choose one instead and swap the beer for a glass of wine. This should leave you feeling satisfied rather than stuffed and groaning from indigestion!
Drinks bought from a cafe can also unwittingly add a huge number of calories to your daily intake. Flavoured coffees such as caramel or gingerbread lattes contain as much sugar as a full fat Coca Cola. Smoothies and juices that are marketed as the healthy option have similar amounts of sugar and therefore, empty calories that don’t fill you up. This isn’t a problem if you drink one a week, but if you have them daily, they can really add to your calorie intake without you realising. Go for the standard coffees or make it at home instead and minimise the juices for an easy way to reduce your sugar intake.