Maintaining a Heart Healthy Diet When Eating Out

Maintaining a heart healthy diet VS Eating out 

Eating out is a way of life for many people, but it can be a challenge for people who are trying to have a heart healthy diet. I always teach everyone that when eating out, you must feel confident about the food choices you are making. It doesn’t always have to be a ‘blow out’. You also shouldn’t avoid social events and definitely shouldn’t fear that you will never be able to enjoy dessert again.

The key is, that you are making the HEALTHY choice 80- 90% of the time so that when you do have a treat, it doesn’t undo all the hard work that you’ve done. I always suggest that people should treat themselves to 1 to 2 cheat meals each week. This is something to look forward to that may not be particularly healthy. For some this may be a meal out or eating a bar of chocolate. You may get the best of both worlds by keeping it to 1 to 2 cheat meals per week.

Heart Healthy Diet

After a heart attack or surgery, you may find yourself shifting between having a heart healthy diet to fearing certain foods. Both sides are not wrong, however it is best to have a good balance. Your heart needs nutrients and needs to be fed accordingly. Heart healthy foods include vegetables because they contain the most micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Biscuits and ice cream the least. If it’s from nature and it’s brightly coloured, it’s more than likely good for your heart. If it comes in a packet or is beige in colour, it’s probably not!

Use your common sense when eating out. The reason restaurant food often tastes so good is because of the the amount of oil, butter, and/or salt used. This isn’t a problem if you only eat out once or twice a month. But if it’s once or more a week, you need to be picking the best possible heart healthy foods so that you don’t feel bloated and lacking energy the next day.

Here are my tips for having a heart healthy diet when you’re eating out. 

Tip #1: Be prepared

  • Drink a large glass of water before you go out and as soon as you arrive. If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to drink more alcohol and make unhealthy choices.
  • If you can, select a restaurant that offers heart healthy meals. Most restaurants and even pubs now offer a heart healthy food options these days.
  • Avoid alcohol before eating as this will increase your appetite.
  • Consume smaller portions than usual during other meals during the day when you plan to eat out in the evening.
  • Feed yourself a heart healthy snack before you go. For example, handful of nuts, a banana, or apple so that you are not hungry when you sit down to eat.
  • For parties, bring a healthy dish to share with others. Think large salad, crustless quiche, or roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

Tip #2: Ask for heart healthy meals

Photo by James Frewin
  • Order what you want. If there is a chicken and vegetable dish but it comes with rice, ask them to leave the rice out.
  • Try to drink water often throughout the night. If you are drinking alcohol, have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink.
  • Avoid the bread basket – you will eat mindlessly even if it’s not that tasty!
  • Be firm with your choices – don’t worry about what the others are ordering. When you are all eating no one will notice!
  • If everyone is ordering a starter and a main, ask for a starter size portion for your main meal.
  • Look out  for fish dishes, chicken, lean meats, and vegetarian options. Examples of healthy dishes include grilled fish, whole fish, spatchcock chicken, veal, liver, nut roast, mussels, and prawn dishes.
  • Select a dish with a lot of vegetables.
  • Don’t eat dessert unless it’s one of your 2 cheat meals for the week. Order coffee, tea, or peppermint tea instead!

Tip #3: Make healthy choices

Photo by Caroline Attwood
  • Keep clear from the ‘white & stodgy’ family. This includes pasta, pizza, pastry, jacket potatoes, rice, burgers, bread, chips and other meals with large servings of white carbs.
  • If you are going to drink, choose to have ONE or TWO glasses of quality wine rather than a whole bottle of not-so-nice wine just because it’s cheaper.
  • For canapés, choose ones with prawns, smoked salmon, or vegetarian options. Often the portions are so small that 1-2 canapés won’t hurt!
  • Think protein + vegetable. Do you have some good quality protein (fish, chicken, turkey, lean read meat or tofu) and plenty of veggies?
  • You don’t have to order a salad, but you may be surprised by how tasty they’ve become. No longer is a salad simply lettuce and tomato – some restaurants put roast veggies, pomegranate seeds, goats cheese and other tasty things in their salads. They can actually taste REALLY good and would be hard to make yourself – you may be pleasantly surprised!
  • If you are going to order a cheat meal, choose something that’s REALLY tasty and go for it! You may be surprised by how you feel after.
  • Don’t get food envy! That pizza will make you feel bloated and puffy.

Restaurant examples


Pizza and pasta
Photo by Nerise Gokpinar

Minestrone Soup

Rocket and Parmesan salad
Grilled shrimp or octopus

Grilled Chicken Spiedini (grilled chicken, roasted veggies, and lemon olive oil)
Veal Marsala (veal sauteed with mushrooms) with veggies or salad on the side
Pollo D’Nonni (chicken breast marinated in soy, sherry, garlic and herbs) with veggies or salad on the side

Breads, pizza, pastas, and fried foods


Photo by Sheri Silver

Soup (french onion or vegetable soup)
Mixed salad with goats cheese
Mussels, clams or prawns

Tuna Tartare
Steak and salad (no chips please!)
Moules (mussels) with salad on the side
Grilled fish with salad or veggies on the side

Breads, pastry, and too much alcohol


Photo by Christopher Alvarenga


Hummus with veggies instead of pitta bread
Babaganoush with veggies
1-2 Falafal with hummus or tahini

Grilled chicken, lamb, or beef with Tabbouleh, salad and grilled veggies
Yoghurt, hummus and tahini as dressings

Fatty meats, breads, pastries, and Baklava

British or Gastropub

Burger and chips are not a great healthy options let’s be honest! Photo by Robin Stickel


Grilled vegetable stack
Smoked salmon or grilled calamari salad
Tomato and mozzarella salad

Grilled whitefish with seasonal veggies
Chicken burger without the bun with salad
Steak and salad or veggies (no chips!)
Seared tuna with vegetables

Breads, burgers, chips, mash, and large portions


Photo by Macau Photo Agency

Papaya Thai salad

Larb (meat and veggies wrapped in lettuce)
Summer rolls (not deep fried spring rolls)

Vermicilli noodle salad
Hot and sour soup
Vegetable curry
Grilled fish with spicy vegetables
Chicken cashew
Prawn, vegetables and rice noodle stir-fry

Prawn crackers, rice, fried noodles, and large portions


Photo by Travis Yewell


Hara Bhara (vegetable) Kebab

Sambar dal – a solid stew made with chickpeas, legumes and a variety of spices
Tandori chicken with side veggies
Chickpea and spinach curry

Naan bread, rice, and fried foods

Desserts are yummy. However, there is probably no dessert menu that have heart healthy foods. If there’s fresh fruits, go for it! I’m not all about deprivation, just make sure that you don’t treat every time that you go out as an excuse for a blow out.

Let me know of other restaurants that have heart healthy foods!

One Comment Add yours

  1. dpranita583 says:

    Nice tips for healthy living.

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