A no-nonsense guide to eating healthy while dining out – India Today

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In the whirlwind of modern life, dining out is a breeze with so many options around. But keeping it healthy? Now, that is quite challenging. Good news, though – we’ve got tips from experts to make your restaurant or party escapades a healthy affair.

With a mindful approach, you can ensure not to compromise on the health quotient even if you are eating out. Hydration, meal preplanning, and ordering mindfully are important steps in achieving this.


Time to munch with a mission (keep those taste buds doing the happy dance).

Pre-plan, if possible

“If one knows in advance about dining out, it is important to have a balanced breakfast and lunch beforehand. This will decrease the amount you consume when dining out,” says Chayanika.

Robin Naagar, a Delhi-based fitness coach, suggests keeping the other meals of the day lighter if one is headed out to a restaurant. “If you are going out for dinner, try to keep it light for breakfast and lunch to save some calories for the outside meal,” he says. It will help avoid overconsumption of calories.

However, it doesn’t mean starving yourself before the meal.

A mistake health-conscious people often make before heading out for a meal is that they starve themselves the entire day. “This is the biggest mistake some people make. They keep themselves hungry and then eat anything and everything outside,” says Ruchika Saluja, a nutritionist and a yoga instructor.

Eat healthy snacks before heading out

“Before going out, eat fibre and protein-rich foods such as sprouts, salads, fruits, homemade soup, or egg whites. This will help suppress hunger and give you better control over what you eat when dining out,” says Chayanika.

Focus on protein

First things first! Order protein-rich foods, because it is one of the healthiest moves you can make to maintain your diet. Wondering why? “Well, it helps in more than one way. Firstly, it makes you feel full for longer and hence you avoid overeating. Secondly, even if you end up eating more of it, know that it is hard to digest. So, the body uses more energy and burns more calories while breaking it down. So, it is a win-win situation,” explains Ruchika Saluja, a nutritionist and yoga instructor.

She suggests ordering protein-rich appetizers such as grilled chicken or paneer tikka first, and eating them generously to leave less room for carb-rich mains.

Focus on proteins (Photo: Pexels)

“Focusing on protein intake is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make in your life,” she adds.


Protein plays a multifaceted role in our overall health and well-being. From supporting growth and repair to regulating body functions, weight management, heart health, and mental health, protein’s importance cannot be overstated.

Consider starting your meal with vegetables

Lovneet Batra, a nutritionist based in Delhi, suggests starting the restaurant meal with vegetables. “Opt for tandoori gobhi, opt for sauteed vegetables if the cuisine is Asian. If you are eating Italian, you can opt for salads with vinaigrette dressing. Doing so helps slow down the absorption of sugar and also makes you feel full.”

Make sure you don’t order a salad loaded with creamy or mayonnaise-based dressing. They are loaded with trans fat. Vinaigrette dressing is a healthier alternative as it is prepared using olive oil which is a source of healthy fat.

Chayanika Sarmah, a Guwahati-based dietitian also says: “Start any meal with salads and chew slowly. This helps suppress hunger and ensures better digestion.”

Try to start your meal with protein and vegetables. (Photo: Pexels)


Avoid starting your meal with papad or bread baskets. “They make you feel hungry because they contain starch,” says Lovneet. When digested, such foods increase your glucose levels and make you feel hungry soon.

Enjoy the time. Don’t just focus on the meal

Head out for a meal not only with the perspective of eating but to spend some quality time. “Enjoy the time and not just the meal,” suggests Ruchika. Doing so may prevent you from eating extra.

Slow down

“Chew the food properly. Don’t eat too fast,” says Lovneet. Slowing down the pace of eating can increase fullness and eventually prevent overeating.

Chewing well also sends a message to your brain that you are eating. “While having food at a restaurant and being indulged in conversations with our friends or family, we tend to forget we are eating and end up overeating,” adds Robin.

Follow the 1/3 rule

Pay attention to what your plate should look like and order accordingly. A simple rule to remember, as shared by Lovneet, is to have 1/3 portion each of protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates.

Don’t mix too many items

“You end up eating more when you eat a lot of variety,” says Lovneet. Hence, it is better to avoid ordering multiple things in one go. “If you are eating rice, avoid ordering noodles for the same meal. Similarly, if you are having dimsum, then avoid sushi. Keep the option for the next meal,” she says.


“This way, you will leave the restaurant not feeling very full or heavy,” she adds.

You end up eating more when you eat a lot of variety. So, avoid doing that. (Photo: Pexels)

“We tend to order multiple things when we are at a party or a restaurant. We try multiple things and then get into a vicious circle of sorts. We overeat and then drink soda drinks to subside the heaviness. Then, we try to eat something simple like dal-rice. Whereas if you have something like grilled protein, you feel full and are not tempted much to try other things,” adds Ruchika.

Avoid gravies

Lovneet further points out that gravy items are high in salt and oil. So you should avoid ordering gravy items.

Don’t fall for the label fad

Do you get lured when a restaurant claims that they use ‘olive oil’ or make any such ‘healthy food’ claim? Sorry, to break the bubble but one ingredient can’t decide the health quotient. “How you combine the overall meal is what matters. You, anyway, can’t rely on quality as the guiding reality when you are eating out. So, stop deceiving yourself by falling for such labels,” says Lovneet.

Avoid the sauces

Avoid fried food and processed sauces and dips. (Photo: Pexels)

No matter how tempting they look but control the consumption of dips such as mayonnaise, says Robin. “These dips are made with oil, loaded with calories and don’t add nutritional value to your meal,” he says.

Ditch fried for tandoori or grilled items

Prefer grilled food over fried variants. (Photo: Pexels)

Another important thing to keep in mind is to opt for healthier alternatives such as grilled or tandoori items. Unlike fried items, these are not soaked in oil. “For instance, if you order fried chicken thinking that it will give you protein, it will also end up giving you excess calories of oil. It is not the case with grilled or tandoori chicken which is usually prepared with minimal oil and fewer spices. Even for a wrap or burger, opt for grilled variants,” says Rohit.

Choose the drinks wisely

Prefer having a lemonade or fresh fruit juice instead of a sugar-loaded mocktail. (Photo: Pexels)

If you are opting for mocktails, avoid the ones loaded with sugar and soda. “Nimbu paani (lemon water), coconut water, and even fresh seasonal fruit juices are healthier options that you should consider,” says Ruchika.

“If you plan to have alcohol, set a limit,” she adds.

The dessert rule

Limit the dessert intake if you want to have it at all. (Photo: Pexels)

Refined sugar in great amounts can lead to several health disorders such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease. However, if you want to end your meal with a dessert, just take 2-3 bites to satiate the craving. That is what Lovneet suggests.

Drink lots of water

If the food outing is pre-planned, ensure to drink a lot of water the entire day. “Most restaurant foods contain excess sodium that could lead to dehydration and an increase in thirst. It is important to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, and one should drink more water for the next 2-3 days as well,” says Chayanika.


“If the person is diabetic, then the person has to start the meal with salads and have a good amount of it,” says Chayanika. Individuals under this category should ensure that they maintain control over their food intake of roti and rice and avoid certain foods such as fruit custard and sweets.

Most importantly, know your food

To be able to make better food choices, the first step is to know what food item adds what value to your nutritional quotient. “You should be aware of what a carbohydrate source is, what adds to the protein intake and what are the sources of fibre,” says Robin.

Ruchika further adds that “no food is bad”. You should just be aware of what you have eaten so far in the day and make choices accordingly. If you know your protein intake has been less, opt for a pizza with chicken or paneer topping to ensure you get some of that nutrient.

Eat mindfully so that you can have ample amounts of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat, and fibre for the day.

Post-meal care

Consumption of plenty of water, vegetables, fruits, and minimal cereals will help in detoxifying the body in the days following a meal out, says Chayanika. You should also consume curd as it can help reduce bloating and aid digestion. “Curd can be taken daily in forms like raitas. Even in winters or at night, you can have curd before eating food,” she explains.

Happy eating.

Published By:

Medha Chawla

Published On:

Jan 19, 2024

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