26 Mar

With eased restrictions as Singapore’s COVID-19 situation gradually stabilises, we’re finally able to dine out and enjoy restaurant-cooked food again. Hooray! 

For those who are working towards certain fitness goals whether that be fat loss, muscle gain or maintenance, it helps to be aware of how regular dining out (coupled with poor food choices) can negatively impact your progress. 

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition claimed that people are likely to consume an average of 200 more calories when eating out than those who eat at home.

Here are a few reasons you’re more likely to overeat when dining out: 

  • Portion sizes for restaurant meals are often greater than they should be - and how often do you leave leftovers? 
  • It’s not as easy to track calories and macros because you often don’t know what ingredients and how much of certain ingredients are used in your dish
  • Foods at restaurants tend to have a lot more saturated and trans fats than meals that you may be able to cook up at home 
  • The way in which dishes are prepared and cooked is often unknown 
  • The convenience of eating out as well as the many options available makes it easy to order and eat more

For many, the quarantine period was a chance to cook up storms of wholesome and healthy meals at home. And with a good diet comes good progress. 

So for those of you who have made great progress over the past few months and would like to maintain that progress as we’re all able to dine out again, try these tips from OMNI Strength & Performance to eating healthy when dining out (or ordering in if you prefer to stay home)! 

1. Order safe options by looking out for certain keywords 

As you browse through the mouth-watering menu, there are a few keywords that you can look out for that’ll typically be your safest bet when eating out or ordering in: steamed, baked, grilled and soup. As a result of the method used for cooking, steamed foods contain very little unhealthy fats and calories. This is compared to, for example, fried foods that are doused in oil and carry a significant amount of unnecessary calories and saturated fats. 

Source: thehealthsite.com

The table above shows that while not as low in calories as steamed items, baked foods are a relatively safe option too. The process of baking happens through slow cooking with gentle heat. This method allows for natural moisture to slowly evaporate, which eliminates the need for any added fats such as oils. If you’re conscious of fat intake, picking grilled foods could also be another great alternative. 

According to Mayo Clinic, the method of grilling foods allows fats to drip away which then strips away those calories from it. Finally, soups are an option that is generally low in calories, delicious and incredibly filling! 

There are plenty of options for soups that are high in protein and fiber or low in carbohydrates if that fits your goal. Plus you get the added benefits from the retained nutrients that are often stripped away in foods that forego other common methods of cooking such as frying or boiling. 

2. Be conscious of what makes food less of a safe option 

While there are certain words that act as a green light for safe options, there are also certain keywords you can look out for to avoid or eat in moderation. These include foods that are fried, creamy, and cheesy, just to point out a few. As deliciously tempting as these may sound on paper, they’re the types of food that tend to load up on the unhealthy fats and calories that may get in the way of helping you reach your fitness goals. 

3. Make special food requests 

Most restaurants will be more than willing to accommodate your special requests - so don’t be shy to ask for them! Request to get your sauce/dressing on the side, swap your side of fries for a salad, or ask for less rice and more veggies. If you’re ordering in, delivery platforms such as Deliveroo and FoodPanda also allow you to make requests by adding a note for cooking instructions or any other special instructions you might have upon placing your order. 

4. Opt for cuisines with healthier food options 

If and when it’s your turn to make the ever so difficult decision of what and where to eat, opt cuisines that have healthier options. There are so many wonderfully delicious cuisines with more healthy options than others. However, if you find yourself in doubt, the team at OMNI Strength & Performance suggests Japanese! The cuisine has plenty of safe food options including sushi, sashimi, grilled foods, rice bowls, udon/soba soups, and more. 

5. If you’re up for it, a salad is the safest choice 

All the tips above this one show that there are plenty of healthier options when eating out that’ll still allow you to continue to reach your physique goals. While you don’t have to eat a salad every time you dine out or order in, they are definitely the safest option. Salads are a good choice especially for the days that you’re not too peckish, or when other options don’t particularly tickle your fancy. If you have the option to pick what goes into your salad, choose lots of veggies, a lean protein, and ask if you can separate the dressing so you can control the amount.

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