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The secrets of eating out healthily: Common traps

Even if you know how to choose healthy options at a restaurant, it can be easy to fall into these two traps.

Healthy eating out is not just about what's in the food but also how much of it we eat.

Size really does matter and when eating out: a number of studies have found that we tend to eat more when served larger portions. In the studies, many people didn't realise they were eating more and did not feel any fuller after the larger meal.

We tend to feel a large serving is a good thing when we're eating out, because we're getting 'value'. But serving sizes in some restaurants can be way out of line with a healthy-looking plate.

Anyone who's travelled to the USA will know from that land of enormous servings that this has an effect on the size of the eaters!

Most restaurants won't tell you off if you leave some food on your plate, and many are happy to let you take the leftovers home.

If you have lost touch with what a 'healthy' serving size is, use this guide, or print out the serving size poster on your right:

  • Meat or chicken: about the size of a deck of cards
  • Pasta, rice or potato: about the size of a tennis ball
  • Print out our handy serving size poster

(Athletes and highly-active people who burn up lots of energy will need more.)

Alcohol can be a real trap; it's easy to forget how many kilojoules they add to our daily intake.

See the table below for typical bar measures (highest to lowest):

Drink Kilojoules
Strong ale 1 glass (250ml) 765 
Coca-Cola 1 glass (230ml)  450 
Lemonade 1 glass (230ml) 425
Beer 1 glass (250ml) standard, draught or lager  380 
White wine 1 glass (100ml) 345-395 
Red wine 1 glass (100ml) 340-365 
Standard tonic 1 glass (230ml)  345 
Reduced-alcohol beer 1 glass (250ml) 305 
Spirits 1 nip (70 proof, 20ml)  175
Low-alcohol beer 1 glass (250ml)  100 
Diet mixer 1 glass (230ml) tonic, coca-cola, lemonade  5