A nutritionist’s tricks to eating healthy while dining out

Jessica Sepel shares her top nutrition-approved tips for selecting the healthiest options when dining out at a restaurant.

Dining Out, Jessica Sepel

I’m constantly being asked what to order in restaurants. From a nutritionist’s perspective, it can be difficult to navigate a menu to find the healthiest options, whilst also remembering to treat yourself every now and again!

Here are my nutrition-approved tricks to find the most healthy options for a bunch of my favourite cuisines.

1. Modern Australian

Modern Australian, dining out, Jessica Sepel
Pinterest / Lazy Cat Kitchen

Eat this:

  • Go for lean protein (grilled, steamed or barbequed) with a side of green vegetables or a green salad.
  • Often, I go straight for the sides! Roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potato chips or simply steamed greens with lemon juice and olive oil are the perfect accompaniment to a meal.
  • I also always pair my option up with a fresh green salad. 

Avoid this: 

  • Fried foods and creamy dressings. Ask for salad dressings on the side if you can.

2. Japanese

Japanese, dining out, Jessica Sepel
Pinterest / 500px.com

Eat this: 

  • Miso soup or edamame beans.
  • Slices of sashimi (white fish is best).
  • 1x sushi roll with rice + fish or chicken – brown rice if possible.
  • Sashimi salad with seaweed and avocado.
  • Chicken/beef teriyaki with Asian vegetables, with sauce on the side, are other fabulous main meal options.

Avoid This: 

  • Tempura dishes, Japanese mayo and heavy sauces.

3. Chinese

Chinese, dining out, Jessica Sepel, dumplings
Pinterest / Jessica Gavin

Eat this: 

  • Lean protein (chicken/seafood) stir-fry with lots of colourful veggies!
  • Opt for poached, steamed or grilled options that use simple Chinese flavours – like chilli, garlic and ginger. 

Avoid This:

  • Dumplings, spring rolls and fried meats – it’s easy to overeat and lose a sense of portion control when you’re snacking on a lot of little fried dishes.
  • Go for boiled rice instead of fried rice – it’ll cut down on unnecessary oils and fats.

4. Italian

Italian, dining out, Jessica Sepel
Pinterest / Spicy Southern Kitchen

Eat this:

  • Grilled chicken breast, fish, veal or steak with steamed or grilled veggies and an Italian green salad.
  • Pizza lover? Choose a thin crusted base and add lots of vegetable toppings e.g. tomato, capsicum, onion, mushrooms etc. 

Avoid This: 

  • Creamy pasta dishes.
  • Processed meat toppings.

5. Thai

Thai, Jessica Sepel, Dining Out
Pinterest / Pinch Of Yum

Eat this:

  • Lean protein (fish, chicken or beef) with vegetables such as bok choy and chinese broccoli – incredibly nutritious!
  • When it comes to stir-fries, look for ones made with lime, lemongrass, ginger, basil, chilli and garlic and not heavy sauces (peanut or coconut milk based).
  • Dishes that are fresh and light! E.g. Tom Yum soup, a papaya salad with lean protein or a Thai beef salad.

Avoid This:

  • Fried dishes e.g. spring rolls, chicken wings or moneybags – tasty, but very high in oil and sodium.

6. Vietnamese

Vietnamese, dining out, Jessica Sepel
Pinterest / Lazy Cat Kitchen

Eat this: 

  • Choose vermicelli salads with lean beef or chicken, rice paper rolls and dipping sauces that are light and thin.
  • Opt for steamed or poached seafood or meat with fresh herbs – full of flavour without any added nasties! 

Avoid This: 

  • Fried food and creamy sauce. 

Remember, following the 80:20 approach like I do (80% good foods, 20% not so ‘perfect’ foods) means allowing wiggle room to indulge. Believe it or not, indulging is good for you – as long as it’s not all the time. Dining out should be a source of joy – a moment shared with loved ones – not something that causes anxiety or stress because there might not be the right or healthiest meal.

Treat yourself once in a while, to a delicious meal or your favourite dessert when dining out. Your body and mind will thank you!  

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Jessica Sepel
Jessica Sepel is one of Australia’s leading nutritionists as well as an author, wellness coach and health blogger at http://www.jessicasepel.com. You may recognize her from her beautiful recipes – she is the beloved voice of very active Facebook and Instagram profiles featuring daily food inspiration and health mantras. Her second eBook, The Clean Life, was massively successful worldwide, before being published officially by Pan Macmillan Australia under a new title, The Healthy Life. As a regular contributor to Vogue Australia, mindbodygreen and a variety of international publications, Jess continues to expand the JSHealth brand for women who want to prioritize wellness in their busy lives. She has a passion for helping young women develop a healthy relationship with food, teaching self love and respect everywhere she goes and has just completed her second book, to be published early next year.