What would the nutritionist order?

Emma White - Nutritionist | 06 Nov, 2022

Some people think eating out is a big no-no when trying to lose weight – but this really doesn't have to be the case. It's perfectly fine to go out and enjoy a meal – it's just about making the right choices.

We have the calories counts for over 130 eating out places in the database, to give you the knowledge you need to stay on track. If you're in the mood for a bit of indulgence, simply have what you fancy and just ensure you make room for it in your calorie target. You've got the information to hand in our Eating Out section to enable you to plan ahead for the dish you want. Alternatively, if you're aiming to keep the calories down, you can scan our Eating Out section or the menu for one of the lower calorie options. To find the Eating Out section in the app, tap on the blue menu button in the top right of the Diary page > 'Eating Out'.

To give you a steer on how I would go about making a healthier choice, I've looked at restaurant examples for several different cuisines we have listed in the database and picked my top choice. There's no perfect dish, and I haven't simply chosen a low calorie salad at every place! I'm aiming to highlight which dishes I would choose and why, and how you can keep the calories down and nutrients up, while enjoying a super tasty meal you haven't had to cook.

All Bar One


Nourish bowl with the addition of a miso & sesame salmon skewer – 658 kcals

The nourish bowl includes quinoa and buckwheat, both great high-fibre grains. There's then the addition of spinach, rocket, tomatoes, broccoli and pomegranate for your 5-a-day. Topped off with a low-cal orange dressing. The greens provide a good source of iron and vitamin C, with the pomegranate and orange dressing boosting the vitamin C levels further – which can help improve iron absorption. The salad alone wouldn't necessarily hit the spot for long, so I'd add in the miso & sesame salmon skewers for extra protein and good fats from the oily fish. Together these choices make a super nutritious and tasty meal option.

Bella Italia


Pesto Della Casa – 767 kcals

Pasta with courgette, peas, basil pesto, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. This meat-free pasta would be a top choice for me! Firstly, the fact it's meat-free is a big plus as I'm trying to have more meat-free meals where I can. The addition of green veggies means it's stacking up my 5-a-day and the basil pesto and pine nuts provide a great source of plant-based protein and good fats. The pecorino cheese is providing extra protein and calcium too which is a plus. All in all, this is a good starchy meal which will energise and provide good fats, protein, calcium and vitamins.



Vegarrito – 758 kcals

Now I would say that the sea bass would be a great choice nutritionally and it does sound super tasty – but I'm personally not a fan of sea bass. So, I would go for the Vegarrito! Mexican food is so tasty thanks to all the spices, so it's a great option to go meat-free, as the spices add plenty of flavour. This choice is packed with pulses, a great source of plant-based protein and fibre, and the spinach tortilla provides extra iron and vitamin C. This would be a very filling choice!


French Brasserie

Salmon Côte D'Azur – 724 kcals

Getting your oily fish portion in each week is important for heart health, so I always think grabbing the opportunity when you eat out is a great idea. This dish has a good balance with a mix of vegetables, with the puy lentils providing additional fibre which is a big tick. The olive tapenade adds a lovely burst of flavour and seasoning, while also being a good source of unsaturated fats. A tasty nutritious dish all round!

Five Guys


Little Hamburger (464 kcals) and half a portion of Little Cajun Fries (340 kcals) – 804 kcals

If I'm going to go to a burger place, I'm going to want to get a burger! This is where portion control comes in. A full two patty burger is too much for me anyway, so I'd opt for the smaller one patty option. I'd then split a small fries with my partner (who would probably have had the two patty burger!), as a little handful will be plenty alongside a burger. This way I get to enjoy a burger and fries, without overeating and feeling totally stuffed afterwards!

Frankie & Benny's


Mediterranean salad (299 kcals) topped with grilled chicken breast (494 kcals) – 793 kcals

American-style diners do tend to be full of calorie-loaded fried foods, with plenty of cheese on top! To avoid a heavy dish that would leave me feeling sluggish, I'd opt for one of the salads with an addition of chicken. There's a lot going on with this salad as it includes cous cous, lentils and bulgar wheat, as well as squash, broccoli and spring onion – so I definitely wouldn't be left feeling hungry. Adding the chicken for a healthy portion of lean protein makes this a well-balanced dish rich in fibre and protein.

Harry Ramsden's

Fish & Chips

Small cod (407 kcals), half a portion of regular chips (259 kcals) and mushy peas (170 kcals) – 836 kcals

As with the burger place, I'm having fish and chips if I go to Harry Ramsden's! Fish and chips is often served in huge portions, which encourages us to eat more than we need. I'd opt for a small fish, a split portion of chips and some mushy peas to get some veg in there. This will be enough to fill me up, without stuffing me to the brim – I'd have my fish and eat it!



Balance bowl with Rump Steak (488 kcals) and a side of baked potato (273 kcals) – 761 kcals

There's A LOT to choose from at Harvester, and you can pretty much make any combination you want when it comes to meat, fish and sides. So it's very possible to choose a well balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, fats and veg. I personally like the sound of these balance bowls though, as they have a vibrant salad base and your choice of protein topping. I'd go for the rump steak option as a good source of protein and iron. Iron is important for energy and the type we get from red meat is very bioavailable, so we can absorb and use it most efficiently. As this is a lower calorie option, I'd get a side of baked potato to add some carbs to the dish – making sure to eat the potato skin for extra fibre!

Miller & Carter


Fillet 8oz (521 kcals) with a mixed salad (98 kcals) and half a portion of seasoned fries (178 kcals) – 797 kcals

For me, if you're going to get a steak, you should get the best cut and make sure it's cooked perfectly! Fillet is my favourite as it's so tender. When compared to rump and sirloin, it's not too dissimilar in terms of calories and fat. Ribeye is probably the one to avoid if you're trying to keep the calories down, as it is the fattiest cut. I like to enjoy my steak with a salad and a few chips, so I'd share a portion of fries with my partner. When it comes to steak, the meat is the main event, so I like a few extras to complete the meal, but I'd skip things like sauces and fried extras to avoid excess calories.



½ chicken (568 kcals) with medium spice (20 kcals), corn on the cob (144 kcals) and rainbow slaw (99 kcals) – 831 kcals

It's all about the chicken at Nando's, right? So I would opt for a decent portion of chicken, with some veg-based sides to bulk out the meal. Chicken is a great source of protein, so it will definitely be filling! I can't resist a corn on the cob, which provides additional protein, as well as fibre and vitamins. The rainbow slaw sounds delicious too, with a mix of crunchy veg which is also topped with seeds for extra fibre, protein and good fats. You won't miss the side of chips with all this going on, trust me!

Pizza Express


Leggera Quattro Verdure – 544 kcals

It has to be a Leggera at Pizza Express – all the joy of the delicious Italian-style pizza, without overindulging. I absolutely love the simplicity of a well-made Italian pizza, so just the addition of a few well-seasoned vegetables on top of the tomato sauce base and mozzarella is enough for me. The mushrooms, red onions and black olives will provide plenty of flavour, while adding to my 5-a-day! If I'm honest, I like broccoli, but not on my pizza, so I would just pick this off and eat it as a side! Definitely appreciate the extra veg though, and with the addition of the rocket salad centre, this would be a veg-loaded meal.



Kare burosu ramen – 589 kcals

This ramen includes a mix of veggies, udon noodles and tofu. I love choosing something with tofu at Wagamama as they cook it so well, so it's always super tasty. Tofu is full of nutrients, providing protein, fibre, calcium, iron, vitamin A, magnesium and zinc to name a few. Opting for a ramen is a great way to fill up for fewer calories as it's a liquid-heavy meal, so provides a lot of bulk. It takes me a long time to eat with chopsticks too, so I certainly feel satisfied and full by the time I've finished. This meal also contains lots of veggies, so it's packed with nutrients.

Final word...

I hope this shows eating out doesn't have to be off limits if you're trying to lose weight, it's just about making thoughtful choices. Think about which dish will provide quality nutrients as well as enjoyment – you're far more likely to feel good after eating it and not want to jump off the wagon for the rest of the week.

To guide your choices, check out our Eating Out section for the place you're dining at to avoid unwittingly picking something highly calorific. Also, make sure you log your meal in your diary to help you stay on track with your calorie target across the week.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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