Can Restaurant Food be Healthy?

When people think about a "good" diet, they think about green, colourful salads, bland meat dishes which are associated with lean bodies with defined abs, just like the plethora of fitness model images on Instagram.

In reality, as busy professionals we devote most of our waking hours working, thinking about work, entertaining clients, socialising with our team, finding time for families, no one has enough time to prepare healthy meals in our kitchen. Much as we would like to, our lifestyle just doesn’t allow it (without real conviction on our part).

However, this doesn’t mean we all need to give “healthy diet” the flick. Just following some basic strategies while eating out or ordering takeaway will go a long way to establishing a healthy eating habit.

The strategies below do not apply to Cheat Days when you can eat anything you want. We recommend allowing one cheat day per week and occasionally on special occasions perhaps two cheat days.

Can Restaurant Food or Quick Lunches be Healthy?

Well the answer is, you guessed it, it depends.

It will take a bit of diligence and commitment but it is not as hard as you would think. As there is a myriad of cuisines and food choices on most restaurant menus today, you can still enjoy your food by choosing the healthier options.

We start with some research:

  1. Make a list of eateries (including restaurants, grocery stores, fast food joints) around your office and home.
  2. Go online to look at their menus and select the ones that offer fresh meats, vegetables, whole fruits and salads (and you will find that most of these appear on all menus).
  3. Make a mental note as to what you would like when you are in a hurry or are planning a meal with friends and colleagues. I would suggest you don’t do this exercise when you are hungry.
  4. Choose the healthier options such as:
    • Animal protein with no added fats
    • Salads with dressing on the side so you can control the portion
    • Choose vegetables instead of fries as sides
    • When your list has pizza or fried food joints, visualise yourself peeling the batter and fried skin off the meat and leaving the crust of pizzas
    • This way, whenever you visit, you know exactly what you want (to keep to your healthy diet) and are less likely to get distracted by the many many other unhealthy options offered

To assist with making healthy choices, remember the following:

  • Salads are not as healthy as they may sound (you need to take into account the added salad dressing and sugar)
  • Salad dressings – go half serving and experiment with low fat/low sugar/low calorie alternatives such as fresh salsa, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and fresh lemon
  • Cut the added fats when eating out – no cheese, avocado or nuts as although whole food fats can be healthy, excess can still increase body fat.
  • Cut added sugars – no raisins, cranberries and other dried fruits, only have whole fruits
  • “Low in starch and carbs” does not mean it is good for weight loss—always check nutritional information
  • Cut out the high fat condiments such as sour cream, guacamole, cream, oil based sauces go for low calorie condiments such as mustard, spices, salsa, salt and pepper

When you are at the restaurant, do not eat everything that is put in front of you

  • Perhaps to reduce wastage without risking your body as a “junk” yard for leftovers
  • Be mindful when ordering and only order what you will eat
  • If the bread basket or the soup is too great a temptation, then request them be taken away

At restaurants that you have not researched, stick to the following:

  • A base meal of high satiety foods of animal protein with veggies or a few starch foods if you exercised that day
  • Start with the salad
  • Eat your calories, don’t drink them
  • Beverage: water is best with sparkling water close at its heels. Otherwise unsweetened hot or iced tea. Black coffee can be good too. Keep away from soda, fruit juice, cream, milk and diet drinks.

Cuisine specific suggestions when you find yourself ended up there

Just Remember

There are always ways to choose to eat healthily. We just need to be mindful of what and how and perhaps why we eat.