Check out our tips to help you make healthier choices when eating out at a restaurant or cafe.
Some easy swaps you could try:
- swap pies, bacon and sausages for healthier protein, such as lean cuts of meat, pulses, chicken without the skin, and lean meats like ham or fish (not fried)
- swap cream and cheese sauces for tomato and vegetable sauces
- swap fried rice (such as egg-fried rice) for plain boiled rice
- swap chips and creamy mashed potatoes for baked, boiled or steamed potatoes with their skins on
- swap cakes, chocolate creamy puddings and ice cream for fruit salads or other fruit-based desserts and lower-fat, lower-sugar yoghurts
- swap vegetables served with butter, oily dressings or mayonnaise for steamed vegetables served plain
- swap alcohol or a fizzy drink for a glass of still or sparkling water mixed with some fruit juice - remember, even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so limit yourself to 150ml of fruit juice or smoothies each day (drinking fruit juice with a meal or diluting it with water can reduce the impact it has on your teeth)
For more healthy eating tips, check out the Eatwell Guide.
Healthy menu tips
More and more restaurants are putting the energy content in their food and drink on their menus or websites. Find out more about keeping track of your calories.
Healthy tips when eating out include:
- ask for salt not to be added to your meal during cooking or preparation
- avoid snacking on bread and nibbles before your main meal arrives
- don't order too much - you can always order more later if necessary
- bulk up your meal with a side order of low-calorie steamed vegetables
- ask for sauces to be served separately so you can eat less
- avoid large or super-sized meal options
Tips when ordering dessert:
- share one dessert between two
- swap cream or chocolate desserts for fruit-based desserts, such as apple crumble
Instead of having ice cream or cream with your dessert, ask for fruit purée or plain yoghurt.
Healthy lunch on the go
- avoid salads prepared with mayonnaise or covered in oily dressings - examples include coleslaw, potato salads and some pasta salads
- check the calories and the fat, sugar and salt on the nutrition label of pre-packed salads
- choose salads with dressings sold separately so you can control how much you eat
Learn more about food labels.
- choose brown, wholemeal or higher-fibre breads
- check the calories and the fat, sugar and salt on the nutrition label of pre-packed sandwiches
- you may not need to use butter, spread or mayonnaise if your choice of sandwich filling is moist
- bulk up your sandwich with vegetables, like tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber
- healthier sandwich fillings include turkey, chicken, tuna, seafood (such as prawn and crayfish), avocado, reduced-fat hummus and a hard-boiled egg
- lower-fat cheeses include edam, emmental, gruyère, mozzarella and lower-fat cream cheese
- with sandwich meal deals, choose water and fruit or yoghurt if they're available, rather than sugary drinks and crisps
Hot food tips:
- healthier fillings for baked potatoes include baked beans, cottage cheese, tuna and sweetcorn, vegetarian chilli con carne and ratatouille - avoid adding butter or sour cream, which are high in fat and calories, and be wary of ready-mixed fillings, which can be high in fat and salt
- with pasta, opt for tomato or vegetable-based sauces, which count towards your 5 A Day and are lower in calories and fat than cheese- and cream-based sauces, and avoid adding cheese to your pasta
- go for soups with chunky vegetables - have it with a wholemeal bread roll to make it a filling meal (check out our vegetable soup recipe if you want something to make at home and take to work)
Article provided by NHS Choices