Angela Dowden: How to manage your diet when eating out

We all like to eat out once in a while but restaurant meals aren’t always known for their health or waistline- friendly credentials! However with just a little planning you can enjoy your restaurant experience AND stay trim and healthy.

Dodging the dine out dangers:

The key issue that can play havoc with your healthy diet are large portions and high fat, high salt options. But forewarned is forearmed, so if you know where you’re eating, get online before you go. Many big restaurant chains have menu calorie counts on their websites so you can plan your choices in advance.

For maximum enjoyment with minimal health damage, budget around 600 calories for the meal itself and allow 200 calories for drinks (that’s a couple of small glasses of wine).

It can also be a good idea to be the first to order – hearing what other people are choosing may sway you from your decision.

Other good general tips are to say no to the bread basket (you can nibble olives instead), to ask for dressings on the side and, if choices are calorie laden, to opt for two starters instead of a starter and a main.

Don’t get caught out with how foods are cooked either – that innocent grilled fish might be swimming in butter, so do ask. Menu terms to avoid are creamed, breaded, alfredo, tempura, battered, béarnaise or hollandaise. They all mean high fat!

What to eat and where:


The best selections are generally vegetable or seafood pizzas, or choose an option that’s highlighted as a lighter option. Go for a thin and crispy base and save extra calories by asking for your pizza without oil or cheese. Take care with garlic bread, four cheese or pepperoni pizzas, pesto or carbonara sauces as well as meat lasagne, zabaglione and tiramisu.


Slimline choices include crab and sweet corn soup, steamed dumplings stuffed with seafood and vegetables, or prawn with ginger and spring onions. Avoid dishes that contain battered pieces of meat or fish or sides of fried rice. Follow your main course with Chinese tea and a fortune cookie rather than a battered pineapple fritter or sickly sweet fruit in syrup.


The best dishes of all are dry tikka tandoori dishes that don’t have a sauce. Or opt for a tomato-based curry, such as a balti, soaking up the excess fat floating on the top with a napkin or piece of bread. Another way to keep the calories down is to choose dishes such as biryiani where rice is an integral part of the dish rather than an extra. Opt for chicken, or prawn dishes over fattier lamb or beef.

Pub grub

Healthy choices are plain or peppered steak with the fat cut off, grilled fish, and chicken eaten without the skin. Ploughman’s lunches aren’t the healthy salad meal they may seem – most provide over 600 calories because of the big portion of high fat cheese! Also best avoided are pies and breaded foods like scampi or chicken kiev. A roast is fine as long as you choose boiled rather than roast potatoes, cut all the fat off the meat and pile your plate up with vegetables. Avoid shaking salt over your food– it’s linked with high blood pressure and water retention.