A Dietitians Guide To Healthy Eating Out

2 March 2023

Ryan Pinto

My Muscle Chef Advanced Sports Dietitian

Eating healthy meals while dining out can always be a challenge, let alone when you’re trying to actively lose weight. The endless menu options can be tempting and often result in us overindulging. So to give you a helping hand, we’ve developed a dietitian-approved ‘cheat sheet’ to show you your healthy eating-out options and allow you to enjoy your meals out while staying on track.

Take a sneak peek!

Most restaurants have their menus available online – with some even going as far as to include their individual calorie/kilojoule amount so you can see what the best healthy eating-out options are. This is great for developing a plan of attack so you don’t get caught out or make impulse choices because you’re starving!

Navigating the menu

Trolling through the endless menu options at your favourite restaurants to find the healthiest option can be overwhelming, so we’ve decided to help you out.

Healthy entrees

My Muscle chef protein bites

Arriving at a restaurant hungry is always a recipe (pun intended) for impulse decisions. While it’s important to maintain balance (you don’t want to restrict yourself all of the time), arriving without intense hunger cravings will give you a clear mind to make rational food decisions! A few hours before you head out to dinner, opt for a protein-packed snack to fill any extreme hunger gaps; this way you can browse the menu in peace and reduce the chance of mindless eating.

Don’t want to be swayed by extra food? If this is important to you, ask your waiter not to bring extras like bread brought to your table. Out of sight, out of mind. When it comes to picking your healthy entrée, choose a vegetable-heavy starter to get your fibre intake up.

Healthy main courses

Salmon dish

When searching for low-calorie restaurant meals, look for a lean source of protein that’s not breaded or deep-fried, such as grilled or baked fish or chicken. If you want beef, opt for a leaner cut such as sirloin which by chance also tends to be more tender. Score!

Then think about your sides, opting for a baked potato, salad and steamed vegetables. Broth-based (not creamy) soups are good options as well. Depending on whether or not you’re a dessert person, you can choose to have a carb-based side with your main meal or save those calories for a delicious dessert.

Healthy dessert options

Healthy dessert

For the sweet tooth in us, avoiding the dessert menu can be difficult. The good news is, you don’t have to! Consider splitting it with your dining partners, try a fruit-based dessert or a small scoop of sorbet to satisfy that sweet tooth or, if you can avoid the sweet options (you deserve a medal) opt for a post-dinner tea or coffee.

Watch your portion size

A challenge you might be faced with when eating out healthy is portion sizes – you might be getting a lot more than the recommended portion size. Having a few tricks up your sleeve could be the difference between dining out fitting into your calorie count or throwing you off track when it comes to hitting your weight loss goals.

When it comes to measuring portions, using your hand as a guide is a simple trick that can make all the difference. The palm of your hand should be the size of your protein portion. Then ideally, one-third to half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, followed by 1 cupped handful of carbohydrates. You can always have a bigger or fattier cut of protein by reducing your carbohydrate portion.

Also remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. So slow down, eat mindfully and stop when you are satisfied.

Drink Smart

For most of us, we look forward to that cheeky drink at the end of the week – but it's best kept in moderation, particularly if you’re looking to lose weight. So how can we still enjoy that glass of wine and still hit our weight loss goals?

The best alcohol for weight loss

If you’re looking for the best alcohol for weight loss, then sugar-free drinks should be your go-to. Soft drinks, sweetened iced tea, lemonade, wine, beer and sweet alcoholic drinks like espresso martinis or piña coladas can add calories in the form of carbohydrates fast, so it’s best to avoid these.

Keep your eye out for low-sugar or sugar-free options when choosing pre-made drinks. Try swapping fruity drinks for seltzers or if you enjoy your pre-mixed drinks, opt for a low or zero-sugar option.

What about wine?

Wine in a glass

Wine lovers can enjoy a glass of vino without guilt with some simple swaps. The best alcohol for weight loss is the lower-calorie option; prosecco packs 94 calories into a flute versus 120 calories for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or 122 calories for a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Other ways to enjoy your wine while reducing your calorie count are by swapping to a glass of Rose or turning your wine into a Spritzer. For the red wine lovers out there, swap out your glass of Cabernet Sauvignon for a Pinot Noir or Gamay to reduce your calorie count per serve.

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