Making healthier choices

When you're eating out in a restaurant or café, or taking your own lunch to work, there are a few simple things you can do to make your meal healthier.

Practical tips

When you're eating out or buying food that has been prepared for you, it's often easy to have more fat, salt and calories than you realise.

You can also end up eating more than you would have done if you had made the food yourself.

Although it feels like good value for money when you get served a big portion, if you're trying to eat healthily this means it's very easy to eat too much or have lots more fat and calories than you need to.

The simplest tip, but not always the easiest, is to remember that you don't need to clear your plate. Ideally try to eat slowly and stop when you're full.

Even when you're out, try to choose the healthier options. Here are a few tips to get you started:

What to go for

You should try to choose

  • dishes that are grilled, boiled, poached, steamed or stir-fried
  • lean meats such as ham or chicken without skin
  • fish
  • pulses such as lentils or beans
  • wholemeal, granary, brown, or seedy bread
  • rice that is steamed or boiled
  • potatoes that are baked or boiled

What to avoid

Foods you should try to avoid or cut down on include:

  • dishes that are battered - such as scampi or sweet and sour pork or chicken
  • foods that are deep-fried - such as doughnuts or samosas
  • pies and fried foods - such as bacon and sausages
  • pâté
  • certain breads - such as croissants or pastries
  • rice that is fried or egg fried
  • chips and potatoes that are roasted or creamy

Helpful hints

You should try to follow the following tips to help make healthier food choices:

  • choose low salt and low sugar breakfast cereals instead of sugar coated cereals
  • choose sauces that are vegetable or tomato based rather than creamy
  • go for curries that are dry - avoid creamy or coconut-based
  • ask for any dressings on the side
  • try to stay away from butter or buttery sauces, oily dressings and mayonnaise even in potato salad or coleslaw
  • when ordering from a menu, don't be afraid to ask how a dish is cooked

As well as choosing healthier options, it's also important to avoid eating too much.

This isn't always as easy as it sounds, so here are some common sense tips that you might find helpful:

  • try not to have lots of bread or other nibbles before your meal arrives
  • try sharing a starter or dessert with a friend
  • when you're ordering a variety of dishes, try not to order too many
  • wait until you've eaten your main course before you order a dessert - you might already be full
  • if there is a dessert on the menu you really fancy, then don't have a starter and go straight to your main course, or don't have a main course and have two starters instead
  • if you want a healthy dessert, go for fresh fruit or sorbet
  • if your meal doesn't come with vegetables, order some as a side dish or have a salad with your meal or as a starter
  • have salad in your sandwiches
  • have a glass of fruit juice with your meal
  • choose a meal made with lentils, beans or vegetables

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