So, you’re working your way through the 8-Week Program – you’re fighting those voracious cravings, the wicked withdrawal symptoms and perhaps you've started to actually enjoy more wholesome, tasty meals – but what happens when you’re invited out to a family dinner or a friend’s party? Here is your guide to eating out without sacrificing your health goals and achievements.
It can be hard to navigate the stresses of eating out, especially when you add tempting dishes and social pressures into the mix. But with a little extra planning, you can take the stress out of going out and simply enjoy yourself. Here’s how.
Do a little research
Do a little research on the restaurant you’ll be visiting – you can check out their website and menu to see what’s on offer. Don’t be afraid to call ahead either, it’s worth asking whether they’re able to make any accommodations. Many places will be more than keen to meet your dietary needs! As nerve-wracking as it can be to be the odd one out of your friend group or family, don’t be afraid to say something – whether it’s asking your waiter if they can make some accommodations or saying no to a friend’s request to share a meal.
Make a few swaps
There are a few things to steer clear of when you’re out at a restaurant:
- Anything that’s described as caramelised, honey-roasted, maple-glazed or balsamic reduction, because all this really means is there’s a dose of sugar hiding within.
- Extra sauces like mayo, tomato, barbeque and honey mustard are all loaded with sugar, and often brimming with other unnecessary additives if store-bought varieties are being used.
- Ditch the deep-fried kids meals like fried fish or chicken and nuggets.
Go for the following instead:
- Go for a simple dressing like olive oil and lemon – if it’s not on the menu, ask the waiter if they can provide it.
- Go for grilled meat over fried meat.
- Order veggies on the side and ask for your simple dressing, or even bring a bottle of your own concoction.
- Buy your kids a dish from the entrée menu instead of the kids’ menu – these tend to be healthier.
Here are a few cuisine-specific tips to help you navigate a host of restaurants you’ll find yourself in for birthdays, functions and family nights.
Thai cuisine: The dishes you’ll find at Thai restaurants are often brimming with palm sugar and refined veggie oils – both of which can do a number on your gut health. Here’s what to do.Avoid these:
Skip the Pad Thai and Pad See Ew, they’re often loaded with oyster sauce and palm sugar.
Watch out for the chilli jam – you’ll find this in a bunch of dishes, from stir fries to salads, it’s a sneaky, sugar-packed jam.
Go for grilled meats – ask the waiters if they can leave the satay off the chicken skewers. Grilled fish or prawns are also good options, just ask the waiters to leave out the sauces.
Don’t forget about the sides – you can easily build up a healthy meal using a few choice sides. Steamed veggies are always a safe bet.
Swap any sauces out for lemon or lime wedges.
Massaman, green, red or yellow curries are often a safe bet, and they’re usually packed with veggies! But some restaurants will sneak sugars in here, so ask them if they can leave the sweet stuff out.
Indian: You’ll often find Indian restaurants are safe bets for your sugar-free journey – they have a range of dishes that are not only low in sugar, but also nutritious. Here’s what to avoid and what to order.Avoid these:
Avoid the deep-fried entrees like samosas – these often have hidden sugars and excess refined oil.
Tomato-based curries – since the tomatoes are liquified, you’ll lose a lot of that gut-healthy fibre, leaving you more vulnerable to sugar spikes.
Go for the tandoori chicken – but it’s worth double checking with the waiter if there are any additives.
Go for the korma and veggie curries – just ask them to leave any added sugars out.
Sides like basmati rice, naan bread and pappadums are made of few ingredients and generally safe bets.
Pub grub: Whether you’re on the road or heading out for a night out with friends, the pub is a popular stop. Here’s how to keep it healthy.Avoid these:
Skip the tomato sauce-based pastas – like with the tomato curries you might find at Indian restaurants, the tomato in pasta dishes are also lacking essential fibre.
Skip the barbeque ribs, wedges with sweet chilli sauce – a classic, we know, but that sauce is brimming with sugar, while the wedges are often cooked in refined oils – and the burgers with a bunch of sugary sauces added in.
Go for the steak, salad or side steamed veggies – just ask them to leave the sauce out.
Slow-cooked meats are healthier than their fried counterparts.
Italian: Speaking of tomato sauce, Italians are the grandmasters of delicious tomato-based dishes. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the cuisine entirely – here’s what to do.Avoid these:
Skip those tomato sauce-based pasta dishes – fresh tomatoes are fine.
Skip the salad dressings – you can ask if they’ll provide a simple olive oil and lemon mix.
- Don’t sleep on the antipasto menu – olives, meats and cheeses here are often low in sugar.
- Go for the “white pizza” – these are free of tomato paste – instead of tomato-based pizzas.
Mind your drink
It’s easy to accidentally drink down a hefty dose of sugar even when your glass is smaller than your nose! Restaurants especially love their fancy cocktails and juices lined with decorative sugar – a recipe for disaster! But don’t worry – we have a few tips to navigate this sugary territory.
- Water is your friend: Sometimes it’s easier to ditch the fancy drinks and stick to the table water.
- Ditch the lattes: A flat white or black coffee are good options to dodge the sugar, but beware of sugar-packed lattes – chai lattes are especially notorious for this, with some packing in over 15 teaspoons of sugar in a single serve!
- Ditch the juice: Loaded with sugar and stripped of fibre, these drinks are a one-way ticket to a blood sugar spike and re-launching those intense cravings all over again. Just one glass can have more than 6 teaspoons of sugar! Yikes.
- Dodge the mocktails, cocktails and milkshakes: These drinks are sugar central – need we say more?
- If you’re hitting the booze, go for low-sugar drinks like red wine, dry white wine and spirits – but remember, go easy on the alcohol. A little bit is fine – in fact, a bit of wine will provide a good dose of antioxidants – but you don’t want to tax your liver, so stick to moderation.
Eating out while on the road or in the air? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
- If you’re flying, eat a satiating meal before you depart. This way you won’t be tempted to load up on snacks while in the air.
- If you’re heading off on a road trip, pack a few pre-made snacks to take with you. Cucumbers, apples, bananas, carrot and celery sticks, nuts and seeds are all fibre-packed, nutritious snacks that are easy to store in sealed containers.
- If you’re hitting up the petrol station mini-market, go for unsalted nuts, sugar-free popcorn or even check out the fridge section and pick up some natural or Greek yoghurt.
- If you’re stuck eating at a hotel, go for the steamed veggies, salads – minus the dressings, grilled meats and cheese. Avoid the cereals, baked goods and juice.
Just because you’ve quit sugar, it doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a satisfying, gut-healthy dessert after dinner. If you often struggle to find something that meets your needs on the menu, why not smuggle in your own dessert? If you’re in need of ideas, we’ve got a classic brownie recipe that will have your friends ditching the menu too!
Double Choc Raspberry Brownies
- Coconut oil, butter or ghee for greasing
- 1 1/2 cups almond meal
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder + extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup rice malt syrup, melted
- 3 eggs, lightly whisked
- 3/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen and thawed), mashed into a puree with a fork
- 50g dark (85% cacao) chocolate, chopped into chunks
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a 9x9 inch lamington/ brownie tin with grease-proof paper.
- In a large bowl combine almond meal, raw cacao, baking powder and salt.
- In separate bowl combine butter and rice malt syrup. Whisk until rice malt syrup is well combined. Add in the eggs and continue to stir until mixture comes together.
- Pour the butter/syrup mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir through walnuts, raspberry puree and chocolate chunks.
- Pour the batter into the lined tin. Cook for 20-23 minutes. Check at 18 minutes to ensure mixture is not burning. Brownies are cooked when top is slightly firm to the touch.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing. Dust with extra cacao.
For more classic dessert recipes – especially for the chocoholics out there – check out the I Quit Sugar Ultimate Chocolate Recipe Cookbook.