Dining out and allowing someone else to cook (and do the washing up) is one of life's little pleasures. But when you're trying to maintain a healthy weight, it can become something of a calorie minefield. With portion sizes in restaurants swelling and a lack of nutritional information on menus, trying to select a healthier option isn't always as easy as it may seem. Follow our top tips to ensure you still enjoying eating out without the guilt this season.
Eat a Light Lunch
You've made reservations in the evening and skipped lunch as you've had a busy a day of the office. By the time dinner rolls around, you're desperate to gorge on bread sticks, sharing platters and heavy starters. Sound like an all too familiar scenario? Then you need to make time for a light lunch. A salad with a side of protein like salmon, chicken or tuna will help to maintain hunger levels meaning you won't dive right into the bread basket or be tempted by a calorific starter the moment you arrive at the restaurant.
Watch the Wine
Don't make the mistake of ordering a super-healthy meal only to throw all of your handwork out of the window when it comes to the wine list. White wine is full of sugar and 'hidden calories.' Stick to one glass of red wine as it's low in sugar compared to white wine and is full of heart-healthy benefits and antioxidants. Alternatively if you're celebrating, champagne is low in calories at around 84 calories per glass. If you're a sucker for cocktails, opt for ones with minimal sugar and syrups, like a vodka tonic!
Beware of Light Options
Use common sense when it comes to the menu. While many chain restaurants are keen to promote 'light' options, some are still smothered in cheese or come with vegetables drenched in herb-infused butters. Look out for a good mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables such as grilled fish, chicken or strip steak; brown or whole-wheat rice and pastas and seasonal vegetables. While most menus don't offer up nutritional advice, check the restaurant's website ahead of your visit for detailed nutritional information.
Ask for Swaps
Most restaurants are accommodating to customer requests so don't be afraid to speak up if you want to make a swap. Ask your waiter to swap out fatty sides of creamy potatoes or chips with a side salad or steamed vegetables. Request extra vegetables and less heavy pasta or ask for food to be steamed, boiled, or baked rather than fried.
Be Salad Smart
It's easy to get carried away at the salad bar by convincing yourself that everything is healthy. But be aware of the mayo-laden tuna and chicken pasta salads. Steer clear of potato and pasta salads swimming in mayo and fill up on goodies such as greens, leaves and chickpeas. Limit the croutons to a couple and opt for a spoonful of low-fat dressing to avoid calorie overload.
Share a Dessert
While it may be tempting to deny yourself dessert when you're watching your weight, it's better to eat a little of what you fancy rather than heading home and binging on a tub full of ice-cream. Instead, order desert for the table and several spoons and share it to satisfy your sweet tooth.