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Healthier choices when eating out

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Woohoo! All is going well – kicking added sugar to the curb, been eating us a whole heap of homemade real food, and feeling great for it.

But with Rachael’s birthday BBQ this weekend, mum and dad’s anniversary dinner on Tuesday night, Friday lunch takeaway at work, and the desperate dash between early morning boot-camp and arriving at the desk on time leaving no time for breakfast prep, the luxury of having 100% control of what goes into my meals is lost.

This is okay. Doing what we can as often as we can to nourish ourselves with good food and wonderful food choices is important; but so is the fun of eating out with your partner, sharing a meal at a friend’s, or sampling the new local café’s delectable breakfast fare.

However, there are some choices that can be made when dining out that align with your kick-ass real food eating, and here are a few suggestions.

On the run

Whether we are expecting to, or caught unawares, eating on the go is commonplace. There is an increasing amount of healthier food options available to us – which is great!

But if you can prepare yourself, or consider a whole food alternative, you can find nourishing options that don’t cost the earth, such as:

  • Prepare foods at the start of the week, or the day before, especially if you know you will have limited time to sit down or make food the following day.
  • Keep a snack pack of nuts or tin of sustainably sourced tuna on hand.
  • Quickly duck into a supermarket as opposed to a convenience store, and choose a banana over a chocolate bar, or hummus with carrot, cucumber or snow peas to dip over a white bread ‘n’ marg ham sandwich.

Restaurants and take-away

We LOVE to eat out! It is a wonderful part of many cultures around the globe.

The downside of eating out is take-away and restaurant foods are often heavily processed, full of sugar, salt, low in veg, and often, nasty highly refined oils or trans-fats are used in place of a good quality olive or coconut oil or butter.

Whilst there are definitely offers out there for nourishing, healthier take-away and restaurant foods, they aren’t always available. In this case where possible, choose:

  • grilled, steamed, poached, baked or lightly stir fried over deep fried or swimming in gravy
  • lean meat and poultry over processed and cured meats
  • lots of vegetables. If there is minimal veg in the dish, order entrée size with a slide plate of vegetables or a vege heavy salad
  • meals without MSG (it only makes you want to eat more!)
  • vegetables or whole versions of grains, limiting intake of refined carbohydrates
  • not to add extra salt – you may not need it!
  • water over soft drink if a drink is part of a meal deal
  • to ask questions if you are not sure or concerned about high amounts of certain ingredients, like added sugar.

Sometimes the high amounts of sugar, salt and nasty oils are unavoidable. If so attempt to enjoy fresh whole vegetables and fruit alongside, or in the subsequent meal (be it dessert, or breakfast the next day, for example), to boost intake of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients to help mitigate the not-so-helpful foods.

Finally, eating until you are 80% full is always a good idea. If the meals are huge (which they often are), share!

Allowing your body to digest properly and contend with the good and not-so-good elements of any meal will only benefit your health, including energy, weight and mood.

At your mate’s

Unless you’ve a health condition in which you will suffer significant consequences if eating a particular food, accepting the gift of being fed by family and friends every now and then should be a welcome part of your dietary routine.

Giving and sharing food is one of life’s greatest joys!

However, most people understand if you have a dietary requirement, and if you discreetly and politely discuss this with your future host, and ask how you can contribute, in most cases people are more than happy to accommodate. And it may offer a chance for the host to experiment with meals and foods they may otherwise never be exposed to!

The take home

Be flexible, and be kind to yourself. If you are eating out for a special occasion, eat what you feel like on the day and enjoy it – this is a treat! But for the regular Thursday Thai takeaway, consider the above and choose an option more likely to nourish, and not punish, your body.

Choosing food that will help you is an act of kindness, as is accepting and enjoying whatever lovely food is served up in front of you when you are not the one responsible for its creation.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

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