When I was still working in the corporate sector, I had a colleague exclaim “I don’t know how you keep so slim and toned yet eat out as often as you do.”

So here’s the thing. I love eating out. And I do it often. I love to drink martinis, devour lamb shoulders and smash tacos. It’s about keeping it real.

There are however clever strategies whilst dining out to minimise the extra calories we easily consume especially when we throw a few drinks into the mix and our willpower and judgment go out the window.

In the midst of silly season when we find ourselves eating out most nights of the week here are my top 10 Dining Out Hacks next time you’re shimmying to dinner/ office drinks / a weirdo Tinder date;

1) Find out where you are going prior to the event or dinner and look up the menu before you go. Decide what you’ll order and whether you can make any substitutions prior to arriving.

This is a good approach on two counts;

  • You will make a better choice on what to eat before you get there, most likely famished from waiting in line at Chin Chins for 17 hours and want to order EVERYTHING.
  • Secondly, you are then free to dedicate your full attention to the company you are in, showing them just how special they are.
  • You can even be super organised and call ahead (anonymously if you wish) to see if any substitutions are allowed and mention what you’re intending on doing. Don’t lie about allergies though. That’s not cool.

2) Get rid of the bread roll immediately. Unless you are at Cumulus and they are serving their house made focaccia.

  • When the waiter comes over asking whether you would like more bread for the “table” the answer is NO. Experiment with extra dishes you might not otherwise order and opt for a delicious side of salad or roast vegetables instead.

3) Say yes to sparkling water. Its not only delicious but has naturally occurring salts and minerals and the bubbles will also make you feel fuller.

4) Depending on where you are, sometimes there is an option to have sauces and dressings on the side. This is prevalent when you’re having a steak or if you know the dish will have a heavy sauce or oil component. You can always ask how it is served and decide if this is an option to request.

5) Unless you’ve saving for a house, when you order your smashed avocado on toast, ask to have no butter or oil on the actual toast. As the bread will be spread with avocado anyway, why double up when the flavour won’t be enhanced in any way and you’ll save yourself at least 300 calories.

  • Go for poached eggs because scrambled are always mixed in with either oil, butter or cream. That’s why they taste so good.
  • Try and choose rye or sourdough/wholewheat varieties and avoid bread with yeast or fake multigrain varieties which is sometimes white bread disguised with a scattering of seeds on top. If you want to go the extra mile, try and time your carbohydrates post training. More on this here. 

6) If you’re indulging in a pasta dish and you’re tossing up between the carbonara or the bolognese, the clever option is the one in a tomato base especially if it comprises a component of protein and vegetables. Seafood pasta is also a great option.

7) If you need to make a quick choice on what to order, a steak or fish of the day with a side of vegetables (with extra gravies or sauces on the side) with a salad or roast veggies are highly nutritious options. I like to order an interesting vegetable based side and that way I get to try something else on the menu and avoid overeating.

  • Some of us actually like the way food feels in our mouth and eat primarily for the textural aspect. We love the crunch of nuts or the tactile mouth feel and chewing motion created by a good piece of eye fillet.
  • Savour each mouthful that you consume and be conscious of what you put in your mouth.
  • Avoid eating whilst driving or standing/walking. This is bad for digestion, your brain registering whether you’re full and manners.

8) Dine with someone you actually like. This will mean you’ll have a conversation with them and will chew at a slower pace,  allowing your brain to register when you are content. This process usually takes 15-20 minutes but most of us finish meals in 5-10 minutes and keep eating. This strategy will also help your digestive system especially if you’re drinking alcohol.

9) Opt for red wine to further help with digestion. Not only does red wine enhance the flavour of meat but there are studies indicating it helps prevent heart disease and stroke. Red wine contain procyanidins which are known for protecting us from heart disease as well as resveratrol which is instrumental in removing chemicals responsible for causing blood clots, which is the primary cause of coronary disease.

10) When it comes to dessert, remember that the first mouthful will give your tastebuds the most appreciation and that with each subsequent bite, your overall satisfaction level lowers. Be mindful of this when you opt for something sweet at the end. Sometimes a small mouthful is all we need to feel content.