An astonishing amount of people now eat out on a regular basis, going to restaurants, cafes, and coffee bars has become a way of life rather than an occasional treat. And let’s not forget takeaways, on average, people consume 2500 takeaways, that’s 47 a year by the time they are 63.

It becomes increasingly difficult to know how many calories we are consuming when we are eating out, this is mostly because many of the restaurants are not legally required to provide nutritional and calorie information.

We also have little control over portion sizes and how our food is cooked and prepared. We need to remember that in general, food eaten out has a higher fat and salt content.

High Fat And Salt, Gourmet Burgers & Pizzas

You might think restaurant chains like MacDonalds and Burger King to be the main culprits when it comes to high fat and salt content, but surprisingly they are not, although much of their food is high in fat and salt, the fat and salt content of say a Mac D’s is dwarfed by some of the gourmet burger, pizza, and noodle outlets.

It’s these new upmarket fast-food/restaurants that are significantly contributing to our fat and calorie consumption outside of the home.

Research carried out by Tufts University in Boston, revealed even the restaurants that provided nutritional and calorie information were getting it wrong, in many instances the research showed that restaurants who were giving their foods a calories count, were downsizing this information by nearly 250 calories per meal.

So although it’s great some restaurants are starting to provide you with nutritional information it’s best to take it as a rough guideline, and not to rely on it as definite.

Read Between The Lines

We can’t forget high salt and fat contents, as well as hidden ingredients, are commonplace in most restaurant foods and ordered out food. If you take a look at restaurants’ prepared pizzas and compare them to supermarket bought, you’ll find restaurant pizzas contains twice as much salt as supermarket bought pizzas.

Indian and Chinese food is also a massive contributor when it comes to salt and saturated fat, you really have to watch your levels when buying either of these two.

A government survey in the UK also found that in 20% of meals bought at local Indian and Chinese restaurants that claimed to be nut free, actually contained nuts, this is not only dangerous but it also proves you really need to be careful.

The government also found illegally high levels of colorings including (E110, E129, E102, and E124). The UK has called for a voluntary ban of these additives due to a reported link with hyperactivity in children.

Lose weight And Still Eat Out, Some Easy Guidelines to Follow

It goes without saying you can still eat out without upping the calorie and fat bank too much as long as you choose well, and select your food wisely from the menu.

  • The best way to avoid adding any extra calories is to plan ahead, if you know you are going to be eating out or ordering a takeaway, try and eat sensibly for the rest of that day keeping all of your calories, fat and salt intake at a healthy level.
  • If buying a takeaway, try not to sit and eat it in front of the tv on your lap, this can lead to “mindless eating” and the consumption of a third more calories than you would normally eat.
  • If eating out, choose salads and green or red vegetables as side orders, not potatoes or pasta.
  • Avoid deep fat fried food, or food swimming in creamy calorie filled gravies, opt for grilled baked or steamed or even poached if available.
Always best to watch portion sizes when eating out, restaurant portion sizes tend to be on the large size, you could always opt for taking half home in a doggie bag or share with a friend.

Don’t forget eating out is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, you don’t need to watch everything you eat, just try to make a few considered choices, watch out for the deep fried foods and eat plenty of vegs to fill you up.

Final Tip – If you are offered bread rolls or breadsticks, giving them a pass will save between 100-400 calories.

Resources: The Food Swap Diet by Peta Bee Christina-Stiehl