Eating Out – The Healthy Way

With eating out being a common part of Australian life, it can sometimes seem difficult to enjoy social occasions while sticking to your healthy diet. Healthy eating can be a challenge when you’re out, thanks to larger portion sizes and more availability of high-fat foods.

Learn how to eat out confidently, while sticking to your weight loss and health goals!

Tips for making wise choices

  1. Choose restaurants which offer food cooked-to-order. Waiters and chefs in these restaurants are usually cooperative with special requests. Your requests can be small changes, such as asking for food to be ‘grilled with no fat or oil’, ordering your ‘salad with dressing served on the side’, or requesting ‘no cheese sauce please’.
  2. Check the menu online before making a reservation. Check the style of food and the drinks on offer. If in doubt, give the restaurant a call and ask if their meals can be prepared without added fat, oils and sauces.
  3. Select carefully from the menu. Always ask about ingredients and cooking methods. Be aware that many ‘grilled’ dishes are often basted with fats or oils. Ask for fish or meat to be grilled without oil. If ordering chicken, leave the skin and just eat the meat.
  4. Ask for small portions. Order two entrée dishes or ask for your main meal to be entrée size.
  5. Avoid foods with descriptions such as: sautéed, fried, crispy, battered, butter sauce, pan-fried, creamed, cream sauce, in gravy, in cheese sauce, escalloped, au lait, marinated, basted, casserole, prime, hollandaise, frittata. These are laiden with fats and excess calories, with minimal nutritional value.
  6.  Order salads without dressing, or ask for the salad dressing to be served on the side.
  7. Ask for a jug of water as a thirst quencher. Beer, wine and fruit juice add excessive calories to a meal when consumed purely to quench thirst. Often restaurant food is highly seasoned or salted, making you continuously thirsty. Low calorie drinks, kombucha, mineral water and soda water are also good choices to quench your thirst.
  8. Eat slowly – this will allow you to enjoy your meal and control your appetite. Pace yourself with the slowest eater.
  9. Remember, you don’t have to eat your entire meal. If the serving size is too large, just leave some on your plate.
  10. Good restaurant owners appreciate feedback. Let them know if they catered sufficiently for your needs eg. low-fat choices, low calorie drinks, smoke-free areas. They will respond to customer needs if alerted to them.

Menu items to choose and avoid

Choose… Avoid…
  • Consomme vegetable soup
  • Fruit cocktail
  • Oysters
  • Seafood platter (not deep-fried)
  • Sashimi
  • Cream soups
  • Paté
  • Deep fried spring rolls
  • Garlic bread
Main Course
  • Fish – grilled, baked or steamed
  • Lean meat
  • Chicken – baked or grilled
  • Vegetarian options
  • Pasta – with tomato or vegetable based sauces (avoid creamy sauces)
  • Anything fried, deep-fried, or in a butter sauce
  • Creamy sauces
  • Skin & fat of chicken
  • Pastry pies, cheese
  • Lasagne, cannelloni, ravioli
Salads, Vegetables & Sides
  • Salads – green, dressing on the side
  • Vegetables – steamed, boiled
  • Potatoes – baked in jacket, no sour cream
  • Rice – steamed, boiled (opt for brown rice if available)
  • Oil dressings, mayonnaise
  • Butter, margarine
  • Sour cream
  • Mashed potatoes made with cream and butter
  • Fried rice
  • All plain bread and rolls are suitable – stick to 1 small roll
  • Garlic & herb bread
  • Butter, margarine
  • Strawberries, melons, baked apple
  • Fruit compote, frozen fruit ices
  • Sorbet, gelato
  • Fruit pies, pastries, cream, gateaux
  • Cheesecake, cakes
  • After dinner mints/chocolates
  • Cheese and biscuits
  • Water: Plain/Mineral/Soda
  • Low calorie/diet soft drinks
  • Wine diluted by 50% with cold water or mineral/soda water
  • Low alcohol beer
  • Tea, coffee
  • Kombucha
  • Fruit juice (1 glass maximum)
  • Regular soft drinks
  • Flavoured mineral water
  • Full strength wine or beer (or limit to 2 drinks only)
  • No cream, sugar

Breakfast – Get a Good Start

You’ve heard it a million times before: Breakfast can be the most important meal of the day. If you haven’t got time for breakfast at home, be careful what you choose! Many breakfast takeaway options are loaded with fat and sugar.

Choose… Avoid…
  • Porridge or whole-grain cereal topped with fresh fruit and low-fat or skim milk
  • Whole grain bread, bagel or English muffin with low calorie jam or Vegemite
  • Raisin toast spread thinly with low calorie jam
  • Fresh fruit and no-fat natural yoghurt
  • Omelette made with egg whites, filled with tomato and onion and served with whole grain toast
  • Buckwheat pancakes topped with low calorie maple syrup
  • Hash browns
  • Croissants
  • Toasted bacon and egg sandwich
  • Egg and sausage McMuffin
  • Bacon/sausages and fried eggs
  • Fruit muffins

Note: Some jumbo-sized fruit muffins can contain as many as 560 calories and 26 grams of fat. You could have 5 slices of wholemeal toast and jam for around the same calories, saving yourself about 20g of fat!

Low-fat lunches

Choosing a healthy, satisfying lunch helps you get through the rest of your day without feeling hungry, tired or bloated, and sustains your energy levels throughout the afternoon.

Choose… Avoid…
  • Sushi – Californian rolls, sashimi (brown rice if available)
  • Vegetable soup
  • Wholemeal sandwich, roll, pita bread

Healthy filling suggestions:

  • Lean ham
  • Lean roast beef
  • Turkey breast
  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Salmon
  • Prawn
  • Tuna in springwater
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Salad
  • For extra flavour add mustard, chutney, low-fat mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, pickles, roasted capsicum, pickled vegetables, or gherkin
  • Hot chips
  • Meat pies
  • Sausage rolls
  • Fried chicken
  • Pastries
  • Chiko rolls
  • Hot beef rolls with gravy
  • Salami
  • Quiche
  • Hot dogs
  • Spring rolls
  • Fried fish & chips
  • Burgers


Traditional Asian food is generally low in fat if you choose stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice or rice noodles with small portions of meat. The calories and fat start to add up when you opt for foods which have been battered or deep-fried.

Choose… Avoid…
  • Wonton soup
  • Chicken and corn soup
  • Crab and asparagus soup
  • Clear soups
  • Steamed spring rolls or vegetable dumplings
  • Spring rolls
  • Prawn crackers
  • Prawn toast
  • Spicy chicken wings
  • Dim sims
  • Steamed rice
  • Braised chicken, beef or seafood & vegetables
  • Chicken, beef or squid in black bean sauce
  • Steamed ginger fish and vegetables
  • Steamed bok choy with oyster sauce
  • Chow mien
  • Any dish described as “sizzling”
  • Mongolian type dishes
  • Sweet and sour battered dishes, eg. sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken
  • Crispy fried noodles
  • Any dish made with coconut cream
  • BBQ spare ribs
  • Special fried rice
  • Fruit salad & ice cream
  • Fried ice cream


When eating Italian think red (such as Napolitana sauce) and not white (like Carbonara sauce) – this will save you lots of calories and fat. Any food which has been crumbed and fried will also contain excessive amounts of fat and calories.

Choose… Avoid…
  • Minestrone soup
  • Char-grilled seafood
  • Italian garden salad – go easy on the dressing
  • Garlic bread or herb bread
  • Antipasto
  • Spaghetti Marinara
  • Pasta with tomato, chilli and basil
  • Grilled chicken breast served with a Napolitana (tomato) sauce
  • Char-grilled Carpaccio served with vegetables or salad
  • Grilled eggplant pasta
  • Gnocchi with a tomato sauce
  • Fettuccini Carbonara
  • Pasta with pesto
  • Lasagna
  • Risotto
  • Veal Parmigiana
  • Spicy Italian sausages
  • Gelato
  • Fruit salad
  • Cappuccino, Latte, Flat white – request skim milk
  • Tiramisu
  • Mascarpone mousse
  • Cakes
  • Cheeseboard

Mediterranean Café Style

Café dining complements the casual Australian lifestyle. Enjoy the ambience of the relaxed atmosphere, but don’t become too relaxed when making your food selection.

Choose… Avoid…
  • Tossed varden salad
  • Vegetable or Minestrone soup
  • Toasted pita bread with Tzatziki Dip (Cucumber/yoghurt/garlic dip)
  • Spinach salad – no bacon or croutons
  • Bread – with no spread
  • Garlic bread or herb bread
  • Bruschetta with goat’s cheese
  • Antipasto
  • Cream based soups
  • Chunky chips, wedges or fries
Ask for entrée-sized dishes, salad dressings on the side, and use Parmesan cheese sparingly.

  • Thai chicken salad
  • Spinach salad
  • Mixed char-grilled seafood salad
  • Spaghetti marinara
  • Penne with tomato and basil
  • Toasted pita bread or focaccia with char-grilled vegetables (no cheese)
  • Grilled fish with a tossed garden salad
  • Steak sandwich with salad
  • Grilled chicken burger with salad
  • Grilled skinless chicken breast and salad
  • Vegetarian pizza – request less cheese
  • Caesar Salad
  • Fettuccini carbonara
  • Pasta with pesto
  • Lasagna
  • Risotto
  • Veal parmigiana
  • Burgers
  • Greek salad
  • Thai green chicken curry
  • Fruit salad
  • Gelato
  • Cakes
  • Brownies
  • Cheesecake
  • Cheese platter
  • Chocolates

Dinner party tips

  • Plan ahead for dinner parties. BYO low calorie drinks such as plain mineral water or soda water. Act as the skipper and skip the alcohol.
  • Don’t arrive hungry – have a small low-fat, healthy snack and some water before you arrive.
  • Avoid the pre-dinner high-fat snacks on offer, such as potato chips, corn chips, spring rolls, curry puffs, cheese, dips, pate, crackers, cold meats and nuts.
  • Talk more and eat less.
  • Ask if you can help serve the meal and keep to smaller portions. Fill up on plain vegetables and salad without the dressings.
  • Practise saying “No, thank you” in an assertive but polite manner. For example, “Thank you for an enjoyable meal, but I’m full. Could I have another coffee please?”

Fast food guide

Occasional fast food meals can be part of a healthy diet, however eating them regularly is not a good idea. This applies to both meals from fast foods outlets, and to similar types of meals from the supermarket freezer which you prepare at home.

The concern is not only around the nutritional content of the meal, but also with how this type of eating can influence your attitude towards food, and – more importantly – the attitudes of your children. Children often learn from their parents purchasing the increasing number of frozen convenience products which emulate the fast food options; such as frozen chips and french fries, frozen pizzas and pies.

Hints for wise choices

  1. Choose rotisserie or barbecued chicken, rather than fried or deep-fried. This saves around 120 calories and 13g fat per quarter chicken. Remove the skin and stuffing and save an extra 130 calories and 14g fat . . . a total saving of 250 calories!
  2. Avoid deep-fried foods such as fried chicken, chicken nuggets, fish, chips, onion rings, spring rolls and banana/pineapple fritters.
  3. Avoid salad dressings when choosing salads from a salad bar. Each tablespoon can add up to 80 calories and 8g fat.
  4. Request takeaway sandwiches/rolls to be made without butter or margarine and save at least 80 calories. Also, ask to skip the mayonnaise. Most sandwich bars are happy to oblige. Choose wholemeal bread for a more tasty and satisfying meal.
  5. Having Mexican? Choose a bean burrito over a beef burrito supreme and save 100 calories. Bean dishes are usually lower in calories than beef dishes. Avoid corn chips and excessive cheese. Avoid nacho dishes.
  6. When eating Chinese, always choose items which have the lowest fat content, eg. steamed rice, combination vegetables, seafood dishes (not deep-fried), steamed spring rolls, barbecued chicken or pork.
  7. Choose whole, jacket potatoes or mashed potato rather than chips. Chips have a larger surface area to absorb fat, and therefore contain lots of calories. The smaller the chip size, the higher the calories they contain. Coleslaw or bean salad are lower calorie alternatives to chips. Beans, in particular, are nutritious and add fibre.
  8. Choose sweetcorn cobs without butter where available. Corn is high in fibre and filling, yet moderate in calories.
  9. Choose low calorie soft drinks, or plain mineral/soda water. These options save you plenty of calories compared to their sweetened alternatives. Orange juice represents a large calorie saving over thick shakes.
  10. Avoid desserts. The limited range in fast food outlets are usually high in fat, sugar and calories. Stop off at the fruit markets on your way home and treat yourself and the family to a fresh fruit dessert . . . just the thing to add some fibre and cleanse your palate!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top