Eating out is a wonderful experience, something you can enjoy with friends and family. But if you want to eat healthily, eating at restaurants regularly may pose a few challenges.

Being unfamiliar with the cuisine, cooking style or serving portions, you may wind up eating larger portions or indulging in a lot more fat, sugar and salt than you normally would if you ate at home.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy the gastronomic pleasure of eating in restaurants without blowing your calorie and nutrient goals.

1. Plan Ahead

If you plan to eat out at your favourite restaurant, you may want to cut back on the amount of food you eat through the rest of the day to allow for the dining pleasure. Eat lighter meals to allow for the additional calories you may indulge in.

To locate a restaurant that serves healthier choices, visit our Healthier Dining Programme website to take your pick from the more than 500 restaurants outlets which are participating in the programme.

Healthier dishes, which are lower in calories, prepared with wholegrains or healthier oils, remain delicious and attractive as they are created and prepared by expert chefs. So, go ahead and make your reservation with confidence!

Related: 5 Healthier CBD Lunchtime Dining Options

2. Go Light on the Appetisers and Drinks

As you wait for friends and family to join your feast, you may feel compelled to pick on the titbits served and chill out with a long cool beverage. Many popular appetisers such as deep-fried finger food are high in calories and saturated fat, so they are best avoided or eaten in small portions.

Sweetened and alcoholic drinks offer nothing of nutritive value other than a load of calories. They can easily be replaced with plain water, Chinese tea or flavoured low-calorie soda. If you must indulge, then stay with no more than one or two drinks for the day.


Related: The Drop of Life – 6 Reasons to Drink Water

3. Read the Menu with Care

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Before you place your order, read the menu with care. Avoid items that are titled with leading names like crispy, deep-fried, in cream sauce, lemak, with coconut milk or in syrup as these tend to be higher in calories and may put you at risk of weight gain and obesity. Dishes that are steamed, grilled, roasted or pan-fried are lower in calories.

If you do not understand the fancy or exotic names of dishes on the menu, do not hesitate to ask the waiter or counter staff to explain how it is prepared. You can even ask for a recommendation of popular healthier items.

After you have placed the order, specify that you want your dishes prepared with less oil, salt and other sodium-containing seasonings. Instruct the waiter to serve the sauces of salads, main dishes and desserts on the side, so you can decide on the amount to add.

If you want to make this process a breeze, then pick a restaurant that is participating in the Health Promotion Board’s Healthier Dining Programme. At these restaurants, dishes that are healthier than the rest of the offerings are tagged with the Healthier Choice logo.

Related: Affordable and Nutritious Local Dishes

4. Order a Variety

Select a variety of items from the menu to make up a well-balanced meal, which includes a staple, one or two vegetable side dishes, and one or two protein-rich items such as tofu, lentils, fish, chicken or lean meat.

Keep deep-fried or oily and fatty dishes to no more than one or two per meal. End the meal with a fresh fruit platter which is nature’s most nutritious dessert! If you still want to enjoy other desserts, select one with less sugar or syrup and cream.

Related: Steady! Balancing Meals with My Healthy Plate

5. Eat Just Enough

With so many types of restaurants in Singapore, you may need a variety of strategies to eat healthily in each eatery. Here are some pointers to get you started:

At a la Carte Restaurants

Some restaurant portions tend to be large, so you may be faced with a large amount of food to finish. If you do feel that it is a pity to waste the expensive food, you may polish up all the remnants on the plate, even though you feel full.

So, to prevent this pitfall, order just enough and, that is a tricky thing to achieve. You can even enlist the waiter’s assistance to guide the amount and number of dishes you need to order to feed your guests. You can top up the food order as the meal progresses if you find your guests seem to want a little more.

When you are faced with a whole lot of delicious and attractive food, you really need to exert control to limit the amount you eat.

In a sit-down a la carte menu, you can gauge the portion of the plate against the usual portion you eat at home. Stay with your regular portion and remind yourself not to overeat.

If there are any extras, ask the waiter to bag it up. You can have it for a meal on another day. Do not leave cooked food standing at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Reheat stored cooked food at temperatures above 75oC and make sure its served piping hot.

At Buffet Lines

All-you-can-eat buffets are really a disaster on the waistline for those who cannot control their food portions! Faced with the amazing spread of delicacies, it is hard not to want to try everything.

There are two ways to cope with this. The first way to survive is to hone into one of your favourite items in each section of the buffet line and eat no more than your regular portion. If you want to try it all, take no more than a small spoonful of each item and get a sampler of the entire spread.

Whichever approach works for you, stop eating when you feel three-quarter full. If you are under pressure to keep eating to support your friends, learn to eat slowly and steer the conversation away from your plate.

Another approach would be to take your time to enjoy the meal. Slow down your eating pace to give your stomach enough time to tell you that you are feeling full. This will help you not to eat too much when you are faced with so much food.

At Fast Food Restaurants

To beat all the marketing hype, you need to build up the resistance to dine at fast food restaurants healthily. You need a lot of willpower not to pick the cheapest deal if it is often not the most nourishing choice. In particular, refrain from upsizing the meal and drinks even though it may seem to make more monetary sense.

Fast food restaurants now serve many healthier choices on their menu. So resist the temptation to pick the old favourites and make a concerted effort to pick the offerings that is more nutritious.

Select items that are grilled, not fried; replace deep-fried sides with the salad or steamed corn; switch the classic ice-cream, sundae or apple pie for a piece of fresh fruit; buy water and not the sweetened soft drink.

Fast food restaurants are known for their excellent service so do not be afraid to ask for healthier swaps. Simple suggestions to ask for healthier choices are to request for sauces to be served on the side or more vegetables in your burger.

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