We all know it hasn’t been the best of summers, with barbecues being substituted by a meal indoors, a trip to a local takeaway, or a treat at your favourite restaurant.
But wherever the eating habit takes place, it is still important to ensure that the meal is healthy and balanced, and continues that way with autumn fast approaching.
It’s all too easy to have more saturated fat, salt and sugar than you realise, especially when you are not cooking your own meal. There is also the temptation to eat more than you would have done if you had served up your own portions.
Simple steps can help you to make sure you make healthier choices when eating out, for example food swaps! How about sausage or bacon for chicken without the skin, or lean meats such as ham?
Then of course you can change pastries, muffins and croissants for scones, bagels and currant buns; chips or creamy mashed potatoes for potatoes that are baked or boiled, and cakes, chocolate or creamy puddings, biscuits, sweets and ice cream for fruit salads, sorbets and low-fat yoghurts.
You can also look out for dishes highlighted on the menu as healthier options. Remember an average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day, and an average man needs around 2,500 depending on how active you are, and if you can’t tell from the menu how a dish is cooked then you can always ask.
Fruit is an especially good choice and can count towards the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Fruit that is baked into puddings such as rhubarb crumble also counts towards your five fruit and veg portions. For a healthier pudding, choose fruit-based puddings instead of puddings with cream or chocolate fillings.
Many of us eat lunch on the go, whether it’s from a sandwich shop, cafe, supermarket or the work canteen, but it is often healthier and less expensive to make your own lunch, and you know exactly what’s in your lunchbox.
Salad can make healthy, filling and tasty lunch on the go, and salads that contain some starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes or couscous are more filling. Add grilled chicken (without the skin), prawns, sardines, cottage cheese, mozzarella or strips of lean ham for protein options lower in saturated fat.
Pre-packed salads often have a nutrition information panel on the label so you can check how much total fat, saturated fat and salt they contain. Go for salads that are lower in fat, especially saturated fat and salt (or sodium).
For lunch sandwiches choose brown or wholemeal bread; look at the nutrition information; have your sandwich without butter, spread or mayonnaise, or have a small amount and go for low-fat mayonnaise, and go for a sandwich with salad in.
If you prefer hot food for lunch, you can still make healthier choices. Baked potatoes are a good lunchtime choice, but cut out the butter or use low-fat spread. Healthy fillings include baked beans, cottage cheese and ratatouille.
Pasta can be a healthy choice, but avoid dishes with a creamy or cheesy sauce, or mixed with lots of oil, because these can be high in fat. Tomato or vegetable-based sauces are a healthier choice and will count towards your recommended five daily portions of fruit and veg.
Soups can also help count towards your five portions if they contain vegetables. Try a soup with chunky vegetables, and to make it a filling meal add a wholemeal bread roll. So eat well, but eat healthy!