Healthy Restaurant Meals That Aren’t Salad (Yes, They Exist!)

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson // 20 October 2016

Many people embarking on a weight loss journey often fear going out for meals. Let’s face it, a big menu can be daunting! Skimming from top to bottom, it’s not unusual for people to go straight for the ‘salad’ style options. Salads often looks like the best option for health, and with plant food as the base they certainly can be nourishing!

Cafe and restaurant style salads can be amazing, bursting with flavours and hidden delicacies… BUT, they can also be very high in energy. Often a fabulous fusion of oils, croutons, crispy bacon, nuts, aioli, brie, mayonnaise, camembert and crunchy/crispy morsels, a cafe or restaurant salad may actually have more calories than other options on the menu. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you order beyond the ‘salad’.

Protein

The beauty of protein in a meal is that it keeps us feeling satisfied, so if you want steak or even tofu, go for it! What you need to be careful of is how it is prepared and whether or not it is drowning in creamy, sweet, oily or salty sauces or coated and deep-fried in crumbs! There’s a big difference between a club schnitzel and a chicken breast! Don’t be afraid to ask how it’s prepared and investigate the sauces that may accompany your protein. If your meal arrives and the protein takes up half the plate – cut it in half! Your protein serve should be about the size of your palm.

Also read:  Guide to Healthy Eating Out: Thai, Indian and Pub Food

Carbs

The problem with carbs is solely the portion sizes! It’s OK to have some smart carbs with your meal, but they should accompany the meal, not be the hero on the plate. So if you want a pasta dish, or even a risotto, order an entree size and ask for an extra side of steamed vegetables to bulk out the volume. Your serve of carbs should not be any greater than your fist.

Drinkies

I love a glass of red as much as anyone, but if you are watching your weight, be aware that alcohol not only adds to the overall energy content of a meal out… BUT, it’s also very easy to overeat with a few drinks under the belt! Where possible, opt for sparkling mineral water, or stick with one glass of alcohol.

Healthy Restaurant Choices

The Pizza Place

Avoid

Buttery garlic bread, meat lover’s options and deep pan varieties.

Choose

Thin base vegetarian – gourmet is often best as it has less cheese. Enjoy a couple of slices and fill up on a side of garden salad.

Indian

Avoid

Too much naan bread, pakoras, pappadums and samosas to start. Most curries are high in fat. Steer clear of chicken korma and lamb rogan josh, which have a coconut milk and cream base.

Choose

Chicken balti, tomato and herb based, served with a portion of basmati rice (low GI). Tandoori dishes can be a good choice because they are cooked in an oven, and sauces are often served separately.

Italian

Avoid

Garlic or herb bread, creamy risotto or pastas such as carbonara, pesto sauces, salami and deep-fried calamari.

Choose: Pasta with seafood or meat, in a tomato-based sauce, with a side of steamed vegetables. If you order an entrée, make it minestrone soup.

Japanese

Avoid

Anything high-fat such as deep-fried tempura foods; teppanyaki dishes are also quite high in fat (but lower than many other restaurant meals).

Choose

Sushi or sashimi is an excellent source of healthy fats and is a terrific lunch option. Start with miso soup, which is very low in fat and calories.

Also read: Guide to Healthy Eating Out: Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese

Lebanese and Greek

Avoid

Moussaka, fried kibbi, deep fried calamari, baklava pastries or tartlets.

Choose

Plain grilled kebab-style meat dishes with tabouli salad and pita bread. Although falafel is deep-fried, it can be part of a low-fat meal when teamed with pita bread, salad and hummus. Stuffed tomatoes, or dips such as tzatziki or hummus, can be tasty, healthy starters.

Spanish and Mexican

Avoid

Chilli con queso, nachos, any dish laden with cheese and sour cream, deep fried dishes.

Choose

Black-bean or gazpacho soup is a healthy starter. Fish with rice, seafood salad or paella can make healthy mains. A bean burrito or chilli con carne with beans are options, as are fajitas, but be sure to ask for no sour cream. Choose natural yoghurt instead.

Thai

Avoid

Spring rolls for entrée, followed by coconut-based red and green curries.

Choose

Spicy prawn tom yum soup for entrée, followed by Thai beef, tofu or chicken stir fry. With this combination, you can have an entrée and main.

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One Comment

1 Comment

  1. Diane Reply

    This is really helpful as I travel a lot for work.

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