Eat out, eat well
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietician, British Heart Foundation.
For over 50 years the BHF has pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions.
Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help; from babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure.
1. Are you a gourmand?!
A one-off blow-out meal out probably won’t make any difference to your health in the grand scheme of things, so enjoy it. However, if it’s one of many, consider how it fits into your overall diet. This could mean having a lighter meal in the evening, like soup or a sandwich, if you had a big meal earlier in the day. Or you could choose the healthiest menu options to make the meal fit into your normal diet, rather than just going for your favourites.
2. Check what’s on the menu
One of the best ways to ensure you make healthy choices when eating out is to check the menu before you arrive. It means you can choose your meal without others influencing you. Many larger restaurant chains offer nutritional information online.
3. Three, two or one?
The tendency when we eat out is to have more than we would at home. Sticking to just one course once you see what everyone else is having is hard. Decide before you begin if you are going to have a starter or a dessert, and which one you’ll find easier to decline. Having a coffee or cup of tea while others have a pudding is a good way to round off a meal, or you could share a pudding.
4. Adapt and thrive
Don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to adapt dishes. It’s not usually a problem to replace chips with a jacket potato, salad or vegetables. You can also ask for no extra cheese, butter or oil, and to put sauces in a dish on the side.
5. Portion control
It can be easy to eat more than you intended when eating out. If you don’t want to feel too stuffed, consider a starter (perhaps with a side order of vegetables), instead of a main course, or ask for a smaller portion.
6. Tuck in to turkey
Turkey is a lean meat, and plenty of vegetables with your meal is good. However, keep an eye on portion size. Plates can be full of roast potatoes and parsnips, which come with extra fat and therefore calories. Sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing balls and gravy can all be high in salt, which is bad for your blood pressure. It can make you thirstier, leading you to drink more alcoholic or sugary drinks than you had planned.
7. A bit on the side
Having a good helping of vegetables with your meal will add vitamins, minerals and fibre and help you towards your five a day, but beware of vegetables that come with added butter, cheese sauce or salt. Ask the server for more information and see if there are any healthier alternatives.
8. Entertain at home
We all enjoy eating out sometimes, but have you considered inviting family or friends round for a meal? That way you can control what’s on the menu, and it’s often cheaper too. Ask your guests to bring a dish if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by cooking, although don’t forget to let them know if you want them to bring a healthier option.
9. Be drink aware
Keeping alcoholic drinks within the guidelines is important, particularly in the party season! Try not to exceed the recommended 2–3 units a day for women and 3–4 for men. Don’t forget the calories that alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can add. If you can, choose sugar-free drinks or water, and try to alternate these with alcoholic drinks.
10. Fancy a nibble?
Nibbles are seemingly everywhere. It’s fine to indulge in the odd biscuit, tipple or a chocolate sweet, but sticking to a regular pattern of meals and snacks will help to make sure you aren’t hungry between meals and help maintain your willpower.