Often seen as a perk, having meals out is a common element of expat roles. They serve a range of purposes, from enabling early meetings to teambuilding or entertaining visiting management. Although eating out allows you to enjoy the cuisine of your adopted home, if you find it is impacting your wellbeing, it may be time to make some changes.
Influence the choice of restaurant
If possible, research restaurants in the area and suggest places you know have healthy options on the menu. In general Japanese and Mediterranean restaurants often have nutritious lower fat choices on the menu.
Look at the menu before you get to the restaurant
Try to look at the menu before you get to the restaurant. If the meals have calories associated with them, making a healthy choice should be easier. If not, choose meals with lots of vegetables that have been steamed or stir fried, grilled meat or fish and only a small amount of carbohydrates like potatoes or rice.
Have a healthy snack before you get to the restaurant
This may seem counterintuitive when going out to eat, but try to have some fruit, a low-fat yogurt or even a large glass of water before you go out to eat. This will prevent hunger pangs that may lead to you ordering a bigger meal than you would otherwise.
Don’t succumb to peer pressure
Just because everyone else is having pizza or a ‘cheat meal’, don’t let them convince you. Stick to your plan as best you can.
Ask how food is cooked
This has a big impact on the fat content. Look for food that has been steamed, poached, grilled or stir-fried. Avoid anything fried or deep-fried.
Skip the breadbasket
Although tempting, eating from the breadbasket regularly will impact your waistline. Although bread is great at filling you up, it is of limited nutritional value. Instead save your calories for vegetables and meat that will keep you fuller for longer and provide your body with the nutrients needed to function.
Fill your plate with veg or fruit
Again, watch how they are cooked but if there are steamed or boiled vegetables on the menu or as a side, fill your plate. Avoid them if they are coated in garlic butter or cream. Fruit is best in its raw state. Fresh fruit salads are a great option for a working breakfast.
Ask for dressing on the side
If your meal or salad comes with sauce or dressing, ask for it on the side and use it sparingly. Mayonnaise, gravy and salad dressings can be hidden sources of calories. Do your best to limit them.
An easy way to cut calories when eating out is to skip the sweet. Help your body digest the meal with a peppermint tea or coffee instead.
Don’t forget drinks
Don’t forget, alcohol and full sugar soda all contain calories too. Don’t put in all the work with your meal only to drink all your calories in wine or soft drinks. Instead opt for tea, coffee, water or soda water with a slice of lemon or lime.
Ultimately control what you can. There may well be days or events where eating healthy will not be possible but if you choose wisely the rest of the time, the occasional splurge shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on your health.