Healthy Choices When Eating Out

Eating out can affect our waistline and our health.

When we eat out, it can be so easy to take in more kilojoules, saturated fat, salt and sugar, than we realise – especially when compared to cooking at home. And many times, we end up eating more than if we'd served up our own portions.

Sure, we often indulge in sugary and high-fat foods when it's a special occasion, but eating out has also become a more frequent activity for many of us.

This means that it's important to think about healthier choices even when we’re not eating at home.

Eating out Doesn’t Mean we Have to Let Our Waistbands Out as Well

How about trying these simple tips next time you’re choosing from the menu:

  • swap creamy or cheesy sauces for tomato or vegetable based sauces
    • swapping Pasta Carbonara for Pasta Napolitana could save you about 1,500 kilojoules (kJ)
  • swap fried or crumbed foods for grilled, steamed or fresh foods
    • instead of fried fish, choose grilled fish and you could save over 1,000 kJ
  • swapping two deep fried spring rolls for two fresh spring rolls could save you about 600 kJ
  • swap a side-serve of chips or wedges for a baked potato to save you over 500 kJ
  • swap a main course for an entrée-sized meal and you could save more than 1,000 kJ
  • choose lean cuts of meat and trim any visible fat from meat, and skin from poultry
  • ask for the sauce, dressing or butter on the side – then you are in control of how much you add
  • add extra vegies wherever you can
    • order a side of vegies or salad, add extra vegies to pizza, or choose a vegetable based soup
  • sweet finish:
    • choose fruit-based desserts
    • swap cream for yoghurt, sorbet or custard
    • share dessert with a friend if you can’t resist
  • swap sweet drinks or alcohol for plain or sparkling water
  • if kilojoules (kJ) are shown on the food outlet’s menu, make a lower kilojoule choice
  • listen to your stomach, eat slowly and stop when you are full.

And remember, not only are these healthy food swaps lower in kilojoules, fat, salt and/or sugar, they are usually also higher in vitamins, minerals and fibre – and that’s all good news for your wellbeing.

Why Eating Out can be a Problem for our Health

Ever wondered why the food we eat out is often less healthy than what we make at home? Well, there are plenty of reasons, such as:

  • fat: too much, and the wrong types of fat
    • many foods are deep fried, or cooked in additional fat when you don’t expect it
    • much of the fat is saturated fat, which is bad for your health
  • sugar: too much added sugar, especially in desserts and drinks
  • kilojoules (kJ): too many kilojoules, often due to excessive fat and sugar, and/or large serving sizes
  • salt: too much added salt, often when you can’t even taste it
  • portion sizes: food serves are often large so we feel the food business is giving us ‘good value for money’ – unfortunately big portions are not ‘good value for our health’. We can also feel compelled to finish a meal even if we’re already full
  • fibre: not much fibre, generally because white bread, pasta and rice are served over wholegrain or wholemeal choices, and often also not many fruit and vegetables make it on the plates
  • vitamins and minerals: not many vitamins and minerals often due to the low amounts of fruit and vegies in meals.

Don’t Forget About Eating at Home…

On average, Australians eat out around four times a week.

Although we can make better food choices when eating out, choosing to go out less often for a meal and making food at home instead, will usually be the healthiest option for our family and our budget.

Set Good Eating Habits for Your Kids

We can be healthy role models for our children too by showing them that eating out and takeaway foods are best when only eaten sometimes.

Make one night a week, “homemade takeaway night” and get the kids involved in choosing which ‘takeaway’ food to have this week and how to make it in your own kitchen.

You might be surprised to see how much your kids (and your wallet) enjoy it. Take a look at our recipes section or be inspired by these ideas for ‘homemade takeaway’:

  • yiros - buy lean meat strips, and cut up plenty of fresh salads and vegies, choose tzatziki or hummus as a sauce
  • pizza – make dough or buy a high fibre pita bread base, choose lean meat, low-fat grated cheese and pile on the vegies
  • burgers – make or buy lean burgers, stack on the fresh salads and vegies, and of course don’t forget pineapple and beetroot for a real Aussie burger
  • asian stir-fry – buy lean meat strips, choose your favourite vegies and have steamed rice on the side.