Healthy High Street Dining: How To Eat Out Without Wrecking Your Diet

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Restaurants on the high street can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to eating out without wrecking your diet!

healthy restaurant meals, eating out

We’ve picked out some of the best, and worst, meal options you could choose at Nandos, Wagamama, Pizza Express and Starbucks.

The Best & Worst Meals At Pizza Express

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It’s cool though bae, I’m just having a salad….

Well if you went to Pizza Express for a salad you’d be better off just going for a pizza!

1160 calories! Holy sh*t, and thought salads were generally the smart options to pick when eating out….

Ok ok, this is an extreme example. This is no ordinary salad: it’s got bits of dough, breaded chicken pieces and it’s smothered in calorie-laden Caesar dressing. Now you know that this isn’t a smart salad. But how many people do you think will have deprived themselves of a tasty pizza in place of this seemly ‘healthier’ option.

This post, yet again, illustrates that the concept of giving food arbitrary labels is daft. ‘Salads are clean’ and ‘pizzas are dirty’ just ends up biting people in the ass. This comparison proves that point.

When picking food or options on a menu think about what goes into it. Where are the ingredients from, are there any sneaky high calorie additions? Does it fit within your calorie goals for the day, do you like the food, does it fit your macros?

Stay smart, don’t label foods and think about meals within the context of your diet as a whole.

The Best & Worst Meals At Nandos

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You will have seen that an unwritten rule of the insta fitpro is to bang on about their ‘cheat meals’ down at the local ‘cheeky Nandos’. Don’t get me wrong, I like a plate of chicken as much as the next person. But just because it’s protein packed doesn’t mean that it’s waistline friendly.

Look at this comparison. Smash the chicken thighs, regular fries and regular rice with a single coke refill and you’re almost on 1400 calories! I could have gone higher with this one if it wasn’t for the coke zero. If I added large sides instead and a couple of cokes it would be 2200+. Who’s feeling cheeky now?

Nandos is cool but like any restaurant you’ve got to make smart choices. Just because the fit pros love it, doesn’t mean you can have carte blanche. If you’re trying to get leaner, pick the less fatty cuts of meat. Go for sides like Corn on the Cob, Macho Peas, Chargrilled Vegetables and Sweet Potato Mash and pick the sugar free drinks or grab a water instead.

The Best & Worst Meals At Wagamama

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Wagamamas is ace! Lots of choices and the food tastes amazing. It’s often reported to be a ‘healthy choice’ too. There are lots of fresh vegetables, plenty high protein meals, everything cooked from scratch etc.

However, if you’re on a quest to banish the belly it would be wise to think about what you’re ordering. Don’t blindly assume that everything on the menu is much and such the same…

If you go for the Chicken Raisukaree Curry you’ll be slamming almost 1400 calories in one meal, excluding any sides or drinks! Other popular dishes like the Chicken Katsu Curry packs 1145 calories and the Firecracker Chicken has 1229 too!

Like I always say, you can pick whatever you like to eat if it fit your macros, but I’m guessing that a 1400 calories for a ‘healthy curry’ is one that is going to surprise people just how many calories is in it. Hopefully it will make some folks think twice before ordering….

For folks who are looking for a tasty meal but with less calories then the Ramen dishes are a much smarter move and are just as filling.

The Best & Worst Coffees At Starbucks

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Another one of the fat loss tips that the bro fit pros love to tell you, is that regardless of what kind of coffee you drink, you should swap it for a green tea or an Americano or if they’re feeling lenient an americano with skimmed milk….how fun…

I’m all on board with the idea of limiting the amount of calories that you drink. It’s generally far more satiating for folks to eat their calories instead of drinking them. For some folks we have to make some changes when it comes to coffee.

However, let’s not go to extremes! If you drink quite a lot of calorie heavy coffees over the course of a week then ditching them in favour of green tea is never going to last (PS, green tea is hugely over-rated as a fat-burner anyway).

Make simple changes. Swap whole milk to semi-skimmed. Pick a sugar free syrup instead of the sugary sweet ones. Have 1 sugar instead of 2. Pick a smaller size takeaway coffee than usual. Ditch the whipped cream toppings…

You don’t need to just go straight for the absolute lowest of the lowest calorie coffees like a skimmed Americano either. You can get a ‘grande’ (that’s the 2nd largest size for those of us not inclined to speak Starbucks) cappuccino for only 115 calories. That is 1/5 of the calories compared to a whopper of white chocolate mocha.

Successful and lasting fat loss will be down to you adopting healthier habits that you can follow in the long run. It’s also crucial that you actually like the food and drink’s that you’re going to be replacing or modifying, in the quest to a trimmer waistline. So let’s not go too extreme, ok?

The Best & Worst Tesco Meal Deals

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There are some Tupperware and broccoli lovin’ ‘fitness pros’ who will tell you need to cook every boring-ass meal from scratch, eat the same meal 5x per day and avoid anything packaged, pre-made or cooked outwith your kitchen for fear of it seemingly being ‘full of processed garbage’.

This is total nonsense. It is quite easy to pick up a decent lunch from a shop that is a healthy, filling, not filled with crap and low in calories. This can be ideal if you’ve forgotten your lunch, you’re in a rush or you simply fancy a change. Whilst cooking from scratch is a great way to see what goes into your meals, it’s cost effective and it often tastes ace, it’s not going to be practical for everyone, all the time.

However, when you pop to the supermarket for a meal deal you need to make the smart choices. This is an example of two, very different, £3 meal deals from Tesco.

What’s more, this is also a very simple small change you could make that might have a big impact on your waistline. If you pick something resembling the meal on the left for 5 workday lunches, swapping to the combo on the right would decrease your calorie intake by ~3000 calories over the space of a week!

Is pret healthy than mcdonalds?

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If I asked 100 people in the street which lunch contained more calories, what do you think the majority would go for? Exactly. McDonalds 99x out of 100.

Now I am not saying these two meals are the same. The fat in the Pret meal is largely going to be monounsaturated from the avocado. No argument there that monounsaturated fats have more health benefits compared to the deep fried maccers feast.

The chicken is going to be lean chicken breast, the smoothie packs more micronutrients than a coke zero and the vegetables crisps are higher in fibre than the fries.

Food aside there is also the argument that Pret’s approach to sustainability and corporate social responsibility probably trumps that of McDonalds too.

However, the point I am trying to make is that the sandwich lunch is still a sh*t load of calories, it’s a fairly typical ‘meal deal’ and I’m guessing that most folks who eat it aren’t aware just how energy dense it actually is.

So if you’re trying to lose fat go for the McChicken sandwich….joke. Seriously though, if you can’t prep your own lunch and you don’t want to just grab a salad, look for the ‘healthy living’ range of sandwiches, as they’re usually much lower in calories. Try baked crisps instead of fried (or better yet, take a fruit bag) and pick a water or a no-added sugar juice instead of the smoothie.

Worried that eating out is going to sabotage your progress?

Don’t be.

Whether you eat out for enjoyment purposes, or because you have to for work, it’s not an issue. Use this simple trick to ensure you stay on track, AND have fun.

Pick a source of lean protein, and eat this first

Your lean protein could be chicken breast, a juicy rump or sirloin steak, a nice piece of fish, or, if you’re a veggie – some eggs, soy, or even beans.

The reason why this works is pretty cool. Protein is the most filling macronutrient, so by eating your protein before your carbs (like rice, chips or pasta,) you’ll feel full and want to eat less of the more calorie-dense stuff.

If you do want to indulge a little after your protein, by all means go for it. But it’s guaranteed you won’t want to eat as much, and will consume fewer calories than if you went all in on the carbs first off.

A few simple ways to make better choices could also be to:

1. Grab a starter and main course, rather than starter and pudding, or even worse – all three courses.

2. Skip the booze where possible, or, if you want to have a few drinks, then stick with just one course.

3. Ask for veggies instead of starches, or at least ask for a side salad or extra veggies.

4. Eat slowly, and make conversation as much as possible, so you delay the digestion process and feel fuller.

Scott Baptie

Scott is the owner and founder of Food For Fitness. He is a fat loss coach, speaker and fitness writer with a masters (MSc) degree in Applied Sports Nutrition.