9 Healthy Food Ordering Hacks

9 Healthy Food Ordering Hacks
Carly Jacobs

‘Can you share your quiche recipe with me?’ my friend texted me on Sunday.

‘Sure!’ I replied. ‘It’s super easy, it’s just 10 eggs, whisked with whatever I have in the fridge like zucchini or mushrooms, baked in a pie dish at 160 degrees until it looks cooked.’

She texted back ‘That’s frittata! Quiche has a crust, frittata is just eggs… I thought you had some super, special healthy crust you’d invented!’

And that’s how I discovered I don’t know the difference between quiche and frittata. Turns out quiche has a crust. Who knew?

I think the reason why I didn’t know the difference is that it’s possible I’ve never eaten traditional quiche. As a weight watcher practically from birth, I’ve avoided pastry like it was ebola for most of my life. Avoidance has always been my best tactic to stay on track with healthy eating which is why I didn’t know the difference between frittata and quiche. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered either of them at a cafe, I’ve only ever made ‘quiche’ at home and it’s basically a giant, glorified omelette. That’s why my friend was so interested in my recipe because she knows traditional quiche is not a food I would ordinarily eat regularly. And she was dead right. I was basically eating baked veggies and eggs and calling it ‘quiche.’

I’m usually the one that people turn to if they need to make a healthy or allergy free version of something delicious. Low carb tacos? On it. Dairy-free, vegan, tofu cheesecake? Done. Sugar-free, ketogenic cereal? All over it. I can also substitute carbs in my sleep. See here.

healthy food

This post isn’t about food shaming people, or guilting anyone into not ordering whatever the hell they want. Far from it, it’s just about empowering people to make healthy choices if that’s what they’re trying to do. I know a lot of people start the new year wanting to get their eating habits sorted out but they get sidetracked and it’s all a bit busy, especially around the holidays when every second meal seems to be a special occasion.

Here are 9 easy and simple ways to make ordering healthy food a no-brainer.

1. Say ‘Small, please.’

One of the biggest issues with eating out is the portion sizes. Most restaurants will serve a bigger portion of food than most people should eat because they’d rather you be full than hungry. Big serves get good online reviews. You don’t have to go without the food you like, just order down. A small serve of fries instead of a large. Split a piece of cake with your friend, rather than have one each. Get a small pizza instead of a large one. It all adds up, so cut down when you can.

2. Skip drinks

Alcohol, full sugar soft drinks, juices and smoothies are all packed with sugar which equals additional calories. Even if you don’t count calories, it’s a lot of unnecessary sugar. If, for a treat, you absolutely adore a full sugar Coke or a beer with your dinner, by all means have it, just be aware of how much energy you’re ingesting and maybe skip dessert.

3. Have entree or dessert or wine, but not all three 

I rarely eat in fancy restaurants but if I’m headed out for dinner I have wine and a main. I make that decision before I even walk in the door. I’m not a massive dessert person (unless it’s ice cream and most restaurants do pretty average ice cream) and I always find entrees to be a bit weird. It’s not quite a snack and it’s definitely not a meal, it’s just this tiny bite of food on an enormous plate and I always feel like I’m expected to kick up a fuss about how great it is. I’d really just rather drink a glass of wine while everyone else is eating their tiny $32 scallop. That’s me though and if tiny morsels of amazing food float your boat, go for the entree! The trick is to decide what you’re doing before you enter the restaurant. A dietician friend of mine taught me that trick. If you’re worried about over-eating at a function, pre-decide how much you’re going to eat. If you’re going out for pizza, make the decision to eat two slices and stick to it. Making food choices is really overwhelming when you’re faced with a table of food, so giving yourself those parameters before you enter the restaurant will help you stay on track.

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4. Make salad the main event

Have a giant salad and a piece of pizza on the side. Order teriyaki chicken with greens and one sushi roll on the side. Order chicken and vegetables and eat one amazing, hot, crusty piece of garlic bread with it. You don’t have to miss out on the foods you like, just try to crowd out your plate with wholesome, healthy foods first and add smaller amounts of the treat food.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for something 

I’m always very cautious about asking for changes to items on the menu but most people are totally fine about it. I’ll often order a salad and add an egg on top for extra good fats. I’m super brave now at burger joints and I always order a bunless burger and I haven’t had anyone so much as flinch. We go out for dinner to Indian restaurants and order curries with no rice or bread. The waiter will come back to the table a few times to make sure that’s correct but they’re always super nice about it. If they don’t want to or can’t do it they’ll say no or charge you extra. There’s no harm in trying!

6. Don’t fall into meal deal traps 

If your local sushi joint has one sushi roll for $3 or four for $10, don’t be seduced into buying four and eating the lot. Just buy a normal portion size, regardless of how much more you’d get for an extra dollar. I do the same with ordering lunch out. I don’t eat out often but when I do, I order a salad which is always twice as expensive as anything else on the menu because my health is worth it. I’d rather have one lunch out and budget for a pricey salad than have lunch out every day and eat a cost-effective but non-nourishing sandwich.

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7. Reframe your thinking 

Never think of yourself as ‘missing out’ on things. I used to jealously seethe as other people ate giant shnitzels with chips at the pub while I ate my salad but a few years ago I had a big realisation. I feel disgusting if I eat giant shnitzels with chips. To the point where I can’t sleep because I’m so bloated and full of salt and fat. I never used to notice but the next time you eat a big treat meal like that, pay attention to how you feel afterwards. For me, it’s never good. So now when I’m out with people that are ordering fatty, salty foods I don’t think that I’m missing out, I reframe my thinking. I say to myself ‘I’m so glad I didn’t order that because I’d feel like garbage for the rest of the night.’

8. Avoid fried things  

I know, that was a really mean thing to say but it’s a pretty important step. I’m not perfect and if I’m feeling a bit dusty after a night out and I’m eating yum cha with some mates, I’ll definitely neck a spring roll or two but most of the time, avoid the fried stuff. If you’re out for a special occasion, just eat what you like and enjoy it but if it’s a regular weekly catch up, put down the crumbed calamari.

9. When in doubt, go with veggies

It’s the best fall back. Salad, steamed veggies, baked veggies… whatever they have on the menu, go with veg and add everything else in smaller portions. Also make sure to include some good fats like an egg or some avocado. That’s the stuff that keeps you feeling full!

How do you go with eating healthy food when ordering out? Any tactics you’d like to share?

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