Cooking at home is a sensible way to try and lose weight, as it’s easy to control the calories. A study published in the Journal of American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed a massive 92 percent of meals from chain and local restaurants have been found to contain more calories than an average person should eat in a single meal.
You can’t avoid eating out forever, though, and why should you want to? You can eat healthily while out, if you follow the advice of these nutrition and diet experts. These experts tell us about weight-loss friendly restaurant meals, and these are their own recommendations. Some restaurants are chains, and some are generic cuisine restaurants, but you’ll be sure to find something to suit.
At a Farm to Table Restaurant
Farm to table restaurants get their food from local sources, which means you’re getting more nutrients, says nutrition expert Miriam Jacobson.
A healthy meal could consist of a veg based soup, some salad, and an entrée that has a roasted vegetable and lean meat, such as grass-fed steak or free range chicken.
Vegetables will provide satiating fibre, and lean meat gives protein so you will stay fuller for longer.
At Zoe’s Kitchen
Zoe’s kitchen is a Mediterranean style chain restaurant, and they have plenty of healthy selections. One to try is the salmon kabobs, perhaps pairing them with a side of steamed vegetables, seasonal fruit, or wheat pita chips.
A meal like this is high in protein, has healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and is filling without being too heavy on the calories.
At an Italian Restaurant
You may think that weight loss and pasta don’t go hand in hand, but you can eat some pasta and still lose weight. Nutritionists recommend ordering whole wheat pasta, and you can top that with something like jumbo shrimp, sautéed tomatoes and little bit of feta cheese.
The key to losing weight and eating pasta is portion control. Restaurants tend to serve larger portions than necessary, so a good rule is to share a portion or eat half and bring the rest home for the next day.
At Thai Restaurants
It’s often hard to know which type of fats were used to cook your food at a restaurant, so nutritionists recommend picking a protein rich dish cooked with minimal fat when eating out.
At a Thai restaurant, try ordering some kind of steamed fish, perhaps with lime and chilli sauce. Have it with a small salad to get in some vitamins and minerals.
At Le Pain Quotidien
Try choosing meals that are rich in fibre, protein and healthy fats, and you can keep hunger at bay.
If you’re eating at Le Pain Quotidien, try the lentil and avocado salad with chicken. The lentils and veg will help keep you full due to the fibre. The dish doesn’t come with chicken, but you can have it added to the dish for an extra charge.
At Chinese Restaurants
Chinese takeaway is known for being high in salt and fats, but you can enjoy Chinese dishes without risking your diet. Mu shu chicken with vegetables is full of protein from the chicken, and has some carbs from the thin tortillas. The dish is based around vegetables, so it’s fairly light on calories.
At Panera Bread
Panera Bread is a good choice for people who are watching their diet and need a meal on the go. It has a good menu of soups, salads and sandwiches, and in the winter months a warming bowl of umami broth goes down a treat.
Their lentil and quinoa broth bowl with a free-range egg is perfect for those wanting something more filling.
At a Salad Bar
Salad bars are a dieter’s safe haven, right? Only if you avoid the potato salad, mac and cheese and high-cal toppings like bacon or croutons.
Experts suggest building a healthy and filling salad consisting of something like vegetables, chicken and beans. You could combine chicken breast with kale or spinach, some pulses like chickpeas or lentils, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar and a teaspoon or two of healthy oil like olive oil.
At Peruvian Restaurants
Peruvian cuisine is a growing trend, and for those watching their weight it has plenty of food options.
Ceviche, which is raw fish cured in citrus juices, is a big part of coastal Latin American cuisine. Ceviche has very little oil, and lots of protein and flavour. Pair it with a salad for a complete meal.
At Mexican Restaurants
Mexican food as eaten in America is often full of unhealthy and fattening ingredients, such as cheese, but real Mexican cuisine is very different.
For a healthy meal Mexican-style, try ordering two soft-shell tacos filled with grilled fish or a lean protein, and pair it with an order of guacamole. Try dipping raw vegetables such as radish slices instead of chips into the guacamole, and keep an eye on your portion control. A good rule of thumb for guacamole is to stick to a three-tablespoon serving.
At Pret a Manger
Try the souvlaki chicken salad, which is packed with healthy fats and lean protein, all for under 400 calories.
At a Mediterranean Restaurant
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy one, and it’s not hard to put together a satisfying meal. Steer clear of the hummus, pita chips and fried falafel, and try ordering a variety of vegetable dishes with some lean protein.
Order a sabich platter with eggplant, tomatoes, hummus, tahini and egg for some protein, along with a salad. Or try the chicken shawarma with roasted veggies.
It’s too easy to blow your diet at Chipotle with overstuffed burritos and chips in queso, but look a little closer and you’ll see that the chain has healthy food too, such as their salad bowls.
Try the salad with extra romaine, chicken, brown rice, black beans, fajita veg, fresh salsa and guacamole. Eat half, and save the rest for lunch the next day, and you’re on to a winner. If you are on a plant-based eating plan, ditch the chicken and save 180 calories.