Denman W18 Masthead 2

Healthy Dining Out in Canberra

Kate Freeman

If you’re trying to lose weight or make healthy choices, do you avoid dining out at restaurants and cafes?

It’s definitely hard to say ‘no’ when all your friends are chowing down chips and aioli or a double chocolate brownie. I can see how it seems like a better option to just stay home and avoid it all together. I’d like to offer you a new approach, something that’s a little more sustainable long-term and a little less isolating and sad!

Learning how to make healthy choices at restaurants! If you’re thinking: “Eating out is a treat, don’t ruin it with your health talk.” This post is not for you.

However, if you’re unhappy with your weight and current eating habits and you find yourself at cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets often, you might be interested in some advice.

When dining out you have two choices:

  1. Eat whatever you want, because you rarely dine out or buy food away from home, or
  2. Learn how to make healthy choices when dining out, because you like it and feel you shouldn’t have to stop in order to achieve your goals.

Those of you who made the second choice, read on!

These days, we eat dine out more than ever before. I speak to lots of people in my line of work and one thing is for sure: There is a huge dependence on foods prepared away from home, whether they like to admit it or not.

Here are the stats:

In Australia, on any given day, 36% of adults consume food away from home and this contributes to 36.2% of their total daily energy intake. That’s a third of an adult’s diet, coming from foods eaten at restaurants, cafes, takeaway outlets and more!

This is actually a public health problem because eating food away from home, particularly at fast-food restaurants, is associated with poorer diet quality, increased consumption of energy dense, low nutrient foods, inadequate servings of fruit and vegetables and higher BMIs.

With a new restaurant or cafe popping up in Canberra every week, it’s safe to say that the consumer demand for dining out isn’t going away anytime fast.

Here are eight tips to choosing healthy foods when you’re out and about in Canberra:

Choose a healthy place to eat

There are heaps of great places in Canberra where you can order healthy food! Organise to meet a friend at one of the many healthy cafes in town and it’ll help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Remember your goals

A study looking at dieters eating at restaurants found that when they were reminded of their goals at the point of ordering they were more likely to order a healthy choice leading them closer to their goal. Dieters not exposed to their goals made choices based on taste, rather than health.

Don’t focus solely on the food

Food is great and we do go out to restaurants to enjoy the food, but it’s not the only things that are important. Focus on the people! The social connection. The fun. The joy! I’ve spent many times at restaurants where I’ve said ‘no’ to certain foods and it’s not bothered me one bit because I’ve enjoyed the company so much!

Alternate your drinks

Alcoholic drinks can quickly add up. After your first beverage, opt for a glass of water before you move onto the next one. It’ll slow you down and I’ve seen clients dramatically improve their health by halving their alcohol intake!

Order vegetable sides

Vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. They are fibre and nutrient-rich and can help fill you up, without over-consuming energy. I like to order sides of steamed greens, garden salads, stir-fried vegetables and other vegetable options to boost my nutrition, especially when I’m dining out regularly.

Go easy on your carbohydrate portions

I’m not anti-carb, however, restaurant meals are notoriously good at plating up large portions of carbohydrate-rich food. It’s also usually refined carbohydrate foods like hot chips, white bread and pasta. A large carb meal every once in a while is fine, but not every day and especially not if you’re reasonably inactive. Pasta, bread and hot chips are not evil. I eat these foods, however, I’m mindful of my portion and the frequency at which I consume them. Perhaps try omitting the garlic bread or swapping out the chips for a vegetable side.

Choose plain sparkling drinks

Soft drink adds empty calories to your day and if you’re trying to lose weight and improve your health, swapping soft drinks (even diet ones) will be a great first place to start! Choose plain mineral or soda water. I used to hate sparkling mineral water, but now I really enjoy it and it feels like a treat when I dine out!

Choose a minimally processed protein sources

Think chicken breast instead of schnitzel. Steak instead of sausages or a burger patty. Grilled fish fillet or salmon instead of battered or crumbed fish. Minimally processed protein-rich foods are filling, satisfying and packed full of nutrition!

If you’re keen for more tips on healthy dining out, check out The Healthy Eating Hub’s latest guide! It’s totally FREE. Download Now.


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

Denman W18 Leaderboard