It’s no coincidence that eating out in restaurants and cafes is on the rise at the same time as we face an obesity epidemic. When we eat out we tend to eat more and consume more fat, salt and kilojoules than if we cook at home. It’s part of the whole dining experience – but it’s a real trap if you’re trying to shed weight.

It’s not home cooking!

Chefs love to add fat to every dish in the form of butter, cream, sour cream, coconut milk, olive oil or meat juices. The mash you order at a fine restaurant will have probably double the butter (or cream) that it would have if you made it at home. If it tastes rich and creamy, it probably is!


7 tips to help you eat light when eating out


1. When you get there

Quench your thirst with some iced water or sparkling mineral water. You can dampen your appetite with tomato or V8 juice.  Don’t fill up on bread before the meal, since this probably won’t replace one of your courses!

2. Ordering

Ask the waiter about the menu. Find out how dishes have been cooked (for example grilled or fried) and whether they have a lot of cream or cheese in them. Order two entrees or share an entrée with a friend. Or order share plates so you get a small taste of lots.

3. Entrees

A tossed salad or a soup makes a filling entrée for few kilojoules (calories). Avoid heavier, creamy or fried entrees. Remember to eat slowly and enjoy the conversation. Try and listen to your stomach’s point of fullness. Stop and pause before you eat everything on your plate.

4. Mains

Ask the waiter to grill fish or meat without butter or sauce. Or request the sauce be served on the side so you can have a taste without drowning your meal in it. Ask for a half-portion or a child’s portion. Make sure you order vegetables or salad as often they don’t come with your meal.

5. Desserts/coffees

Go for a fruit based dessert and share it with a friend. That way you can still have a taste without overdoing it. If you order coffee, ask for skim milk and avoid any biscuits or chocolates that might come at the end. These can be a trap at the end of a big meal!

6. Alcohol

It’s easy to over consume when you’re having a good time. Enjoy some wine or beer but sip slowly and pace it out. Drink plenty of water and order a sparkling mineral water or diet soft drink to sip in between. Don’t forget these non-alcoholic favourites:

  • Clayton’s and soda
  • lemon, lime and bitters
  • tomato juice.

7. Watch those portions

Chefs are notoriously generous – with portion sizes. You don’t have to eat EVERYTHING that’s served. Just eat enough to feel satisfied and comfortable. Ask for leftovers in a doggie bag to take home.


Written by guest contributor, dietitian-nutritionist Catherine Saxelby, and reproduced here with permission from

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