01 January 2020

Dine out like a dietitian

How to stay healthy at the UK’s best-loved chain restaurants

Dining out can prove a challenge when you’re watching your waistline. Your head is planning sensible selections and your stomach is craving comfort food and calorific treats.

But there are ways you can indulge at the likes of Nando’s, PizzaExpress, and Frankie & Benny’s without throwing your diet out of the window.

We asked our Principal Dietitian, George Hamlyn-Williams, to pick out the healthiest options from 10 of the UK’s best-loved chain restaurants, based on nutritional value and calories.

Armed with George’s tips, you can feel free to eat wherever your family or friends want knowing you’ll be getting maximum taste while doing minimum damage to your diet.

Cheeky Nando’s

Turns out heading for a ‘cheeky Nando’s’ doesn’t have to be so cheeky at all. In fact, Nando’s Grilled Chicken Breast Pitta option was kinder on the waistline than healthy alternatives at the other nine restaurants on our list, clocking in with just 400 calories.

The lean dish is also low in saturated fat (1.5g per portion), contains 36g of protein and two portions of high-fibre chargrilled vegetables. However, you really need to go easy on the sauce if you want to keep your Nando’s lean and healthy. Nando’s Mango and Lime has the highest sugar content, while its Extra Hot sauce has the most calories and saturated fat.

A pizza the action

Dieters and health-conscious individuals might strike pizza off the list altogether when it comes to eating out, however, we discovered that Pizza Hut offers one of the lowest calorie meals you’ll find at any of the most popular chains.

Its new Tuna and Sweetcorn Flatbread Pizza comes loaded with vegetables, offers plenty of protein and contains just 465 calories. Impressive when you consider you’d swallow a mammoth 1,020 calories if you ate just three slices of the Pepperoni Stuffed Crust.

Another surprisingly low-fat option came from Beefeater, which serves up a Grilled Tuna Steak containing just 404 calories. When plated up with two portions of veg, it makes a healthy alternative to its Teriyaki Salmon dish, which is higher in sugars, saturated fat, and calories.

Diet-friendly dishes

Japanese-inspired chain Wagamama is arguably the healthiest restaurant overall on our list, with more diet-friendly dishes than your average chain. It’s Chilli Prawn and Kimchee Ramen still manages to pack a punch on flavour, despite its modest 514 calorie content.

Frankie & Benny’s landed at the bottom of our list when it comes to calorie content, even with its new healthy option Feel Good Range. The Italian-inspired chain promises each dish on that menu is no more than 650 calories, which is at least 50 more than PizzaExpress, which was nearest on the list.

6 tips for guilt-free indulgence

Eating out undoubtedly has temptations when you’re trying to keep on top of weight loss goals.

However, making a few smart swaps, avoiding certain items, and being mindful of portion control can allow you to enjoy great food with more peace of mind.

Follow our dietitian’s tips and make your next restaurant trip a little more guilt-free. George says:

  • 1. “Opt for tomato-based sauces instead of those containing cream, cheese, or coconut milk.”
  • 2. “Ask for certain components of the meal to be prepared differently if possible – such as poached eggs instead of fried, or baked potato instead of chips on the side.”
  • 3. “Go ‘bunless’ when ordering burgers and swap out chips for a side salad.”
  • 4. “Avoid absentmindedly adding dressings or condiments to meals.”
  • 5. “Opt for leaner sources of protein, like grilled chicken or white fish, instead of pan-fried steak which will be higher in calories and saturated fat.”
  • 6. “Avoid starters that contain lots of cheese or batter, and instead opt for a healthier vegetable-based dish.”

So, there you have it. Having a healthier, calorie-controlled diet doesn’t mean that you have to compromise your social life when it comes to dining out in the UK’s biggest restaurant chains. With a little self-control and awareness, you can treat yourself to a meal out while working to keep your waistline trim.

*This research was carried out on behalf of The Hospital Group, which has no association or commercial connection with the 10 restaurant brands that own the logos referenced in this blog post.



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