by: Jen

When you’re out for dinner with friends or just grabbing a sandwich on the go, make sure you know which are the healthier options as lots of choices can contain more saturated fat, salt and calories than you would expect. Although some of the options may still not be “healthy” – even making small swaps can add up to a huge saving on calories, fat or salt without depriving yourself too much on those special nights out where you want a treat. No matter what the cuisine there are certain high fat dishes that can be swapped for healthier but still just as tasty options. Here are a few tips.

Don’t be afraid to ask – When you’re eating out many restaurants are happy to cater to different requests and you shouldn’t feel like you can’t ask. If the vegetables are served with butter, ask for them without. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side so you can control how much you put on your meal. If you’re not sure what is in a dish then ask – make sure you know what you are eating.

Watch the extras – Try to avoid the nibbles at the beginning of the meal, turn down the basket of bread or the poppadoms.  Ask for vegetables or salad on the side instead of chips. If you are ordering side dishes just order one between  a few people, if you want more you can always order more later but if there is piles of them in front of you you’re more likely to overdo it. Share a dessert or starter with someone else so you can enjoy small amounts of each course, it’s healthier and cheaper too.

Know which are the healthier options! – With soups, order clear soups and tomato based soups (not cream of tomato – think tomato and basil!) rather than some of the creamier or richer options. Instead of fried options go for the salads, lean marinated meats or grilled fish dishes. Get to grips with which are the better choices where:

Italian – Enjoy some minestrone or marinated seafood to start rather than parma ham or deep fried risotto balls. Choose arrabiatta type pasta dishes over carbonara or cheesy ravioli and a thin base pizza over a thick crust, topped with plenty of veg rather than processed meats.

Chinese – Avoid the prawn crackers and spring rolls and start with hot and sour or chicken and sweetcorn soup, grilled seafood dishes or steamed dumplings. Go for lemon chicken or a tasty stir fry rather than creamy curry, battered chicken or duck. Go for steamed or boiled rice over fried. Stay away from the banana fritters!!

Indian – Avoid the onion bhaji and samosas to start and opt for grilled meat kebabs or poppadoms with relish and chutney. Chicken, fish and vegetable dishes can be better than choosing lamb which can be quite fatty. Dishes infused with flavours such as chilli, ginger and garlic taste great and are healthier than butter and cream dishes, if you do prefer the dishes with sauces choose tomato and yogurt based ones. Tandoori dishes are a healthier choice as well. On the side choose plain naan over butter or peshwari stuffed naan.

Thai – Thai stir fried dishes are cooked quite quickly and have plenty of vegetables so it means a healthier option than creamy curries. Choose the steamed rice on the side over the fried rice. Avoid dishes with creamy peanut based sauce like satay and the fried starter options like egg rolls.

Sandwich on the go – Healthier choices are wholegrain breads, tortilla wraps or pitta bread, rolls can be quite heavy. Ask for bread from a regular slice pan as some of the deli types can be very thick. Healthier filling options are chicken, turkey, tuna or egg (without mayo), plenty of salad (lettuce, tomato etc) and avoid too much coleslaw, mayo or processed meats like salami or corn beef. If you do want dressings/sauces ask for low fat or no fat mayo, low fat dressing, ketchup or mustard.