There is nothing greater than dining out with family and friends. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures and something I love to do in my spare time. We’re so lucky here in Australia to be surrounded by so many amazing, delicious and culturally-diverse cafes and restaurants so it would be a shame not to take advantage of them.

Trying to improve your health and fitness and reaching your weight loss goals shouldn’t mean missing out. It simply means making better choices more often. The best news is, eating out healthy is now easier than ever before with so many more nutritious choices available on the menu.

To help you avoid post-restaurant regret and potentially create a negative association with something you love, I have put together a list of simple tips to help you make better choices when dining out.

1. Do your homework

With technology at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to check out restaurants in your area in advance to ensure you eat healthy when dining out. If you can, choose a spot where you know healthy meals are available so you’re not stuck for options. Browse the menu the night before, suss out any available nutritional information and plan what you’re going to eat. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed by a hovering waiter and impulsively order the hotcakes (with extra cream!).

2. No one likes a hangry friend

Turning up to a cafe or restaurant when you’re absolutely starving can be a recipe for disaster and can make that bread basket look all the more tempting. The same applies to grocery shopping. That’s why I always recommend you “snack before you shops’. You’re more likely to over-order or overeat and less likely to go for a healthier option when your tummy is rumbling. Also make sure you drink plenty of water at least half an hour before a meal as dehydration often rears its head as hunger.

3. Don’t bite your tongue

If you need to make a change or want to ask for a healthier option – don’t be afraid to speak up! Most venues are pretty accommodating, particularly with the growing number of Aussies wanting a healthier alternative. And yes, this might mean asking a couple of polite questions to the waiting staff or pushing back against the peer pressure of your friends.

4. Bigger isn’t always better

In a food service world where the typical perception is that ‘bigger is better’, and we’re all looking for great value, most dining outlets will serve portion sizes bigger than your standard home cooked meal. If you’re going to try a few dishes, consider ordering an entree instead of a main, share a meal with friends or simply stop when you’re full. You don’t always have to finish everything on your plate.

5. Hold the sauce

More often than not, the sauces and dressings used at cafes and restaurants add a lot of unnecessary saturated fat and calories to your meal. Ask for your sauce or dressing on the side or go for a simple drizzle of olive oil and balsamic.

Voila! Stick to these tips and you will find that eating healthy when dining out is absolutely achievable. At the end of the day, always remember – it’s okay to treat yourself from time to time, but moderation is key.

Words from Sam’s adventures with Lifestyle You

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Posted by Sam Wood

Father and husband, on a mission to help people move more, eat better and make a positive change. Sam Wood has over 18 years experience in the health and fitness industry, and is recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts and media commentators. He is also the founder and trainer at Australia’s number one online fitness and nutrition program, and owner of Australia’s largest personal training studio, The Woodshed.