It’s possible to eat well when eating out, and will become second nature.
A lot of people say to me, ‘You can’t eat low-carb real food when you go out to restaurants.’ I eat out a lot, having been on the road with sporting teams for up to ten months of the year over the past few years, and throughout all those years of restaurant and hotel meals, I can honestly say I’ve never been unable to find a healthy low-carb real food option.
It can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, though, so let me share with you some of my tips and tricks.
• Don’t eat the bread: Many restaurants serve bread while you’re waiting for your ordered courses to arrive. Give it a miss.
• Starters: Healthy starters include seafood such as oysters, prawns and scallops. Smoked salmon is often available, and there’s often an avocado dish. Sashimi is another good option, as are crudités with a dip such as hummus, salsa or vinaigrette. One of my favourite starters is asparagus in a Hollandaise sauce. A charcuterie with ham, prosciutto, salami and other cured meats is another pretty good option. Olives and nuts are good nibbles. And there’s nothing better than a homemade soup on a cold winter’s evening to start things off.
• Main course: Every restaurant has some meat or fish options for main course. Even Italian restaurants with menus that are largely pasta and pizza will always have some meat dishes – my favourite is veal scaloppini with mushroom and cream sauce. Order your favorite beef, lamb, veal, pork, chicken or fish dish, and just be careful about sauces, which as we know can be full of hidden sugars. Béarnaise sauce, which is made from egg yolks and butter, is good to have with steak, while creamy sauces go well with veal. If you don’t like the look of the sauce on the menu just ask for the meat without the sauce, or see if they have a healthier sauce. Asking for the sauce to be served on the side instead of over the meat gives you the option of leaving it out if you don’t want to eat it. I’ll often ask for some extra butter and place that on the meat, which is especially nice with steak. Herb butter and garlic butter are good alternatives.
• Sides: Some restaurants will give you a choice of sides, which makes it easy – there is usually some sort of green veg or cauliflower or carrot option. Always ask if vegies are included with the meal. The standard vegies served with most meat and fish dishes in Australia are a green vegetable and some sort of potato dish, mashed or chips usually. I simply ask the waiter to hold off on the potatoes and give me extra vegies instead. Some of them might look at you a bit strangely (I’m used to that anyway!), but there’s rarely a problem with that request.
• Salads: Salads are generally healthy, but the main challenge is always the dressing. Ask for an olive oil and vinegar dressing on the side and drizzle the oil liberally.
• Drinks: Water (still or sparkling), tea and coffee are usually available. If you’re drinking something alcoholic, stick with red or dry white wine, champagne or spirits with soda water as a mixer.
• Desserts: It’s probably best to give the dessert menu a miss unless they have some berries and cream. The cheese platter is a good option if you’re still hungry.
• Buffet restaurants: The all-you-can-eat buffet can be a problem – somehow it’s harder to resist foods when they’re sitting right in front of you than when they have to be ordered from a menu, and we all like getting value for money! So discipline is required when you head to the buffet. Use a smaller plate if possible, and try not to return for seconds – remember portion sizes. The good thing about buffets is there is usually plenty of choice, including healthy options – you just have to find them. Focus on the healthy food – the salad bar, carvery, seafood spreads and vegetable platters. And you can usually find some healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter, sour cream and cheese to add to your plate.
• Breakfasts: Eating out at breakfast (or brunch) presents a few challenges. For cold options, avoid the breakfast cereals and be careful about the Bircher muesli or granola if you’re watching your grain intake. With luck, there’ll be a full-fat Greek yoghurt option rather than the sugar-filled fruit yoghurts. Eggs are a good choice, with sides of bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, smoked salmon or avocado. Ask for the eggs without toast if you’re cutting back on grains, or request sourdough or wholegrain toast if not. Avoid the fruit juices and go with water, tea or coffee.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
• It isn’t difficult to eat healthy, nutritious food when you eat out.
• Be careful what you order and request healthy alternatives.
• Avoid too much bread, sugary sauces and dressings, starchy vegetables, desserts and soft drinks.