10 top tips for a healthy weight when eating out


Whether you’re trying to lose weight, have lost weight and want to keep it off, or avoiding the inevitable scale creep, a few good strategies make it easy to still succeed while enjoying meals away from home with friends.

It’s all about sharing, ordering the right amount, and staying aware of how satisfied you’re feeling…

1. Choose a menu that is easily shared

Asian, Middle-Eastern, Latin American cuisines and some European dishes are traditionally shared and lend themselves particularly well to meals for groups.

Many more contemporary and fusion restaurant menus are now also planned around dishes that are designed to be shared.


…..And choose dishes that can easily be shared

Often staff will be a great help when picking dishes that use smaller pieces or can easily be divided. Avoid single pieces (like poultry legs or whole seafood) useless there’s just a couple/few of you (and you perhaps know each other well).


Be aware of how many individual pieces are in the dish, e.g eggplant slices/ prawns/ spring rolls/ duck pancakes. You may need to order 1 1/2 or 2 serves.

The banquet menu can be a good source of ideas but is not a good option in itself (see tip No. 4).

2. Ask for what you need (e.g. whether dishes can be ordered in 1 1/2 serves or cut into extra serves in the kitchen, come with extra bread) including extra bowls, plates and serving cutlery

Restaurant staff are usually more than happy to try to accommodate your needs, if they can. And if you don’t ask….


Pho Quoc’s Rare Beef Pho


Meccabah’s soup

……And consider halving individual items at the table

I know this can get messy, and it doesn’t always work, but tasting platters for two, can become tasting platters for four with just a quick skilled knife manoeuvre.


Punjabi Hut’s shared entree platter

3. Aim for a larger range of smaller taste experiences

It can be much more rewarding to try a number of different foods in smaller amounts than to be just limited to one or two dishes, that may or may not be so good. Eat mindfully and savour each mouthful to gain maximum pleasure from each, without getting overfull.

By sharing dishes you are well on the way to a whole range of tastes, but sharing plates and platters can really be your friend here too.


Pistachio’s dessert tasting platter


Tilba Wines ploughman’s lunch


Jamie’s Italian meat platter


Pistachio’s entree platter


Dionysis Winery, Murrumbateman


Santa Lucia Antipasti platter

4. But avoid the ‘banquet’ or ‘degustation’ option

It might seem to make sense then, to get the ‘banquet’ option, to make it easy. But it’s usually not the best choice.

For a start, you don’t have control over the dishes you get and they can often be fairly routine foods that everyone knows well.

But perhaps more importantly, it’s always way too much food and you end up eating more than you really enjoy, and paying for more than you otherwise would need to.

5. Don’t order dishes, just because you think you should

There are no rules about needing to order salad, vegetables, breads, rices etc.

Only order them because they are good options or compliment other dishes well, otherwise you end up eating them on top of what you really want to eat.


6.  Order the right amount

Unless you eat out rarely, there are regular opportunities to enjoy meals away from home in amounts where you are satisfied but still feel comfortable.

We usually overestimate the amount we need to order and often over cater ‘just in case’. This is one of the reasons that two out three of us carry extra weight. We just don’t need as much food as we once did. And if it’s there, we tend to eat it.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s not necessary to order one main per person. Often 3 mains between four is enough, and one rice/ and or bread, per two people. It’s easy to get more if you need it.


Flavours of India Woden (two mains, two rice, two breads for 4 women for lunch)

Usually mains are better value than entrees and easier to share, and having dessert can push you over your comfortable range.

However, if there is a really good entree or dessert that’s worth including, you can probably cut back to one main per two people.

Having said that, this way of ordering only works if everyone is ‘on the same page.’ If people eat out rarely, are used to eating large amounts or feeling full at the end of meals, it can be too tricky. You might need to allow for groups of different age and gender.

Sometimes too, people will prefer just to order and eat their own, particularly if they have intolerances, allergies or strong food preferences.

7.  Eat mindfully and stay aware of how satisfied and comfortable you are feeling

The first mouthful is always the best, but only if you enjoy it with all your senses. Think of the presentation, textures and flavours as you eat. Best not to talk and savour at the same time, as it’s hard to do both well.

But chatting between mouthfuls is a great way to eat more slowly, so is taking a sip of water between mouthfuls or putting down your cutlery. That way, you give your stomach time to give you feedback; there’s always a lag.

8. Leave dishes in the middle and let everyone serve themselves with what they need

This way, everyone can take just the right amount for them.


Two Sisters’ Kambah

9. You don’t need to finish it all

If food is taken from the middle, once everyone’s taken what they will enjoy, there is often the option to take anything you have loved with you to enjoy again later.

(This is not usually the case with the ‘banquet’ option, another reason it’s not often the best choice).

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10. Don’t starve and don’t get too hungry before you go out

It is much easier to order well and eat the amount you will enjoy, when you don’t let yourself get too hungry before you go out. Sometimes it even helps to have something small to eat, to tide you over. A piece of fruit or a low fat, no added sugar yogurt are ideal; both highly transportable, easy and low in kilojoules.


If you are thinking of your appetite/capacity like a petrol gauge, it’s good to stay 1/4 to 1/2 full.

Sustainable weight loss when eating out


Eating out often can be a real challenge for anyone trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Foods eaten away from home are quite a bit higher in kilojoules (extra oils, dressings, sauces and larger serve sizes), and often very morish. Add a relaxed mood and some alcohol and it’s easy to loose track of how full you’re getting. If you like to eat out regularly…(and who doesn’t if they can)…..you can find you are gaining a few extra kilos each year.

It gets even trickier if you are trying to actually lose weight, because to do that, you need to eat fewer kilojoules than what you use (which is not really so many these days). But it isn’t impossible to still lose weight and in fact a few good strategies can mean you actually have more success long term, because you don’t feel deprived. On the days when you plan to eat a meal away from home, it is a more realistic goal to just balance your kilojoules than to aim to create the negative kilojoule balance you need for weight loss. But you don’t need to count kilojoules to do this, instead it’s more useful to have a range of good strategies in your toolbox.

Look out for the next post for the ten top tips for sustainable weight loss when eating out…

Monday to Friday Diet by Suzie Burrell


Suzie is a dietitian who shares many of fineeating’s thoughts on eating well, while staying lean.
Her book has lots of interesting, but light ideas for what to eat on lean days (which she calls ‘Mondays to Fridays’) and strategies to manage but still enjoy social eating (which Suzie calls ‘weekends’).
My favourite idea of Suzie’s is her ‘Healthy Benedict’ using a light hollandaise sauce made from 2 Tbsp light sour cream (although I use natural low fat yogurt) and 1 tsp Dijon mustard.


She also has a nice recipe for Corn Fritters with Smoked Salmon.


Order dressing and sauces on the side – for flexible flavour and kilojoules



Salads ordered out as well as some meats/fish/chicken often come with dressings or sauces.
Sometimes these are delicious, sometimes a little goes a long way.
However, dressings and sauces almost always offer plenty of kilojoules (calories) in a small amount.
Restaurants are usually more than happy to serve dishes with dressings and sauces on the side.
That gives diners total control over taste and added kilojoules, and the chance to decide whether the add on is ‘calorieworthy’.
It’s just a matter of remembering to ask as you order your meal.

….or maybe the answer is Zucchini Pasta!




Love pasta but have trouble with portion sizes? Why not try this great alternative, zucchini pasta!
1) Chop ends off zucchini and discard.
2) Using a peeler (Asian style peeler used for green papaya/mango salad is best), peel the zucchini full length as much as you possibly can to make zucchini ribbons or strings and add to a large heat proof bowl
3) Once all zucchini has been peeled and added to the bowl, microwave or blanch by pouring boiling water on top blanch for one minute
4) Drain zucchini and serve as you would pasta (eg. With mince bolognaise on top)
Source: Portion Perfection facebook site


Salad on the side – the answer to Australia’s weight problem?



Yesterday the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the much awaited, early nutrition information from the big Australian Health Survey.

One of the most interesting things it told us, was that, in Australia, we are getting more of our kilojoules from things like pasta, noodle and rice dishes than any other type of food.


Part of it is because, they’re so popular now, but we also eat large amounts and often don’t have many veggies or any salad with them.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest about 1-2 serves of pasta at a meal, to keep a healthy weight. A serve is 1/2 cup of cooked pasta.


This serve of Spaghetti Bolognese above has about 4-6 serves.

But if we serve ourselves less pasta with our meals won’t we be hungry?

The secret is to always try to make meals half coloured veggies or salad.


Not only does this cut the kilojoules of the meal in half while still giving plenty to enjoy, but it helps us get our five serves of veggies that we need each day.


At home, it works well to serve half a plate of salad or vegetables first, then think about how much pasta and sauce you’d still enjoy, while staying comfortable.

A mixed pasta dish might look more like this.


It doesn’t really work to try to only add extra vegetables to the sauce, because the same amount of veggies, just won’t fit.

If you’re in a rush, have run out of fresh veg, or feeling like an easy meal, frozen vegetables are a great option. It’s good to always keep some on hand.


Take-away pasta or noodles, can work the same way.


Serve half as much with some vegetables or salad on the side.

If you’re eating out, it works well to order an entree sized dish and a side salad.

Or share a pasta or rice dish and a leafy salad with others.

Or even both!


Cauliflower mash – tasty, leaner swap for mashed potato


Portion perfection cauliflower mashComfort food for the cold weather, that won’t weigh you down

Love mashed potato but it’s just too ‘morish’?

Why not try cauliflower mash!

Cauliflower mash can be used instead of mashed potato with a winter casserole, or spread it on top of cottage pie mixture instead of potato!

So how do you make cauliflower mash? Simple!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

• 1 small head of cauliflower

• Optional: Your choice of added flavours (eg. minced garlic, herbs)


1. Chop cauliflower head in to florets.

2. Steam or microwave until very soft.

3. Add steamed cauliflower to food processor/blender or use a hand blender, as well as any additional flavours (if desired) and blend until smooth. You may need to add a small amount of hot water to reach your desired consistency.

4. Serve with meal, on top of cottage pie or however you wish to use it!

Source: Portion Perfection facebook site


Twenty Top Tips to eating well, while staying lean

  1. Compensate for social eating days by keeping other days ‘lean’
  2. Keep treats, favourite foods and alcohol for social eating
  3. Stick to plenty of salad and coloured veggies, some fruit and low fat protein foods, on lean days with very small amounts of low GI carb foods
  4. Don’t keep foods or drinks you can’t resist at home, just have them when you’re social eating
  5. Know your triggers to overeating, comfort eating, boredom eating and avoid them
  6. Make it easy on yourself; treat yourself like a best friend (or a tantrum throwing toddler)
  7. Make sure everything you eat and drink is ‘calorie worthy’
  8. Eat and drink mindfully – slowly, thoughtfully, savouring each mouthful
  9. Stay aware of mindless eating (nibbling, snacking, binging, ‘just because it’s there eating’
  10. Have a plan – for lean days, social eating and danger situations
  11. Keep a ‘toolbox’ of strategies that work for you
  12. Keep portions small, only as much as you need to enjoy it, share dishes, under order, take some of it with you to enjoy later
  13. Don’t let yourself get over hungry or it’s difficult to eat mindfully
  14. Always stay comfortable, never more than half full
  15. Serve foods and drinks attractively, using garnishes, attractive crockery, glassware and cutlery
  16. Always eat from a plate, at a table, never on the go
  17. Alcohol makes it harder to stay aware of what you’re eating and drinking (and to care) so drink plenty of water as well, sip drinks slowly, pace yourself
  18. Collect ideas and recipes that are delicious, but not your triggers to overeat including interesting salad ideas, fruit based desserts, vegetable based nibble platters
  19. Milky coffees are like a mid meal or small meal so have them carefully

Use a calorie counter book to know your stuff (Alan Borushek’s Calorie Fat and Carbohydrate Counter is inexpensive and easily avail