Updated 31 January 2016

How to eat healthily at a restaurant

Balancing your training demands for rugby with other commitments may leave little time for shopping and food preparation. Eating out may provide you with a much-needed break.


Provided you make careful choices with clever combinations, and keep to your recommended portion sizes, your dietary goals can still be met when eating out. B

ut don’t eat entirely out of character, decide what your nutrition goals are and stick to them.

Practical tips:

1. Many restaurants base their meals on protein-rich foods (meat, chicken, fish etc), with carbohydrate as an accompaniment. To boost your carbohydrates, order extra side servings of carbohydrate-rich foods such as potato (not chips), steamed rice, noodles, and unbuttered bread/rolls and vegetables.

2. Limit your fat intake: avoid menu items with the words – battered, fried, deep-fried, sautéed, creamy, creamed and crumbed. Rather choose dishes that are steamed, grilled, stir-fried, baked or poached. Remind waitrons that NO FAT means no oil, margarine, butter or cream.

3. Don’t be misled by the word "healthy" – this does not necessarily mean low in fat. For example, salads may seem "healthy", but may be high in fat if they contain avocado, cheese, seeds and croutons which are high in fat. Dressings should be ordered on the side or use Balsamic vinegar with only a dash of olive oil.

4. Avoid creamy sauces, gravies, dressings, butter, creamy foods and foods with lots of cheese (e.g. vegetarian). If ordering dressings or sauces, ask for them to be served separately so that you can control the amount you add to your food. Combination dishes such as lasagne, casseroles and moussaka are often made with high fat sauces, so rather order plain separate food items such as grilled fish or meat, baked potato and steamed rice and vegetables. Mint sauce, jelly, mustard, horseradish and apple sauce can be enjoyed with different meats.

5. For dessert, order fruit salad with a water ice or a meringue/pavlova with frozen yoghurt, fruit mousse, plain sponge or a cappuccino.

6. If you are uncertain of how a dish is prepared, ask for more information and be assertive, remember that you are the client and that you may make special requests.

How to eat healthily at a restaurant

ItalianItalian breads without added butter, insalata (green salad) or caprese (tomato and Mozzarella salad); Minestrone (add little Parmesan); marinated calamari; pasta with vegetable or tomato-based sauce, or a lean meat (bolognaise), chicken or a non-creamy seafood sauce;

Pizza with half the amount of cheese and vegetable or fruit toppings. For dessert, order Italian ice or fresh fruit, capuccino (with foam).

Pasta with a creamy sauce (alfredo or carbonara); lots of cheese, lasagne and canneloni as these can be very high in fat; fatty meat; pizza with lots of cheese and fatty meat toppings.

Heavily smoked and salted meats and cheeses served with antipasto.




Steamed rice or noodles, topped with stir-fried meat, vegetables or tofu; chicken or a prawn steamed meal. Request that stir-fries be cooked only with a little oil.

Clear broth soups.

Watch the oil! Battered or deep fried foods (crispy), fried rice, spring rolls and deep fried finger foods; anything cooked in coconut cream or milk; duck.
IndianSteamed rice – use as a base for the meal; lentils; chickpeas; Indian breads (pulkas, naan – no butter), vegetable, chicken or fish curry. Mulligatawny soup or a lentil soup. For dessert, opt for khur, a sweetened rice pudding.Fried or battered foods (or dishes prepared with ghee or coconut milk); samoosas; fried breads; meat curries and fried vegetables. Thick cheese puddings and honeyed pastries.
MexicanRather ordered individual items from the menu rather than large set main courses. Order rice, beans; tortilla. A fajita is the best option- combine salsa, rice salad and char-grilled beef or chicken strips or beans, all wrapped in a tortilla. Gazpacho or black bean soup.

For dessert go for fruit.

Cheese; sour cream; fatty meat; corn chips; nachos.
GreekDolmades; grilled calamari (without a butter sauce or deep fried), lean souvlaki (lamb marinated in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil) tzaziki (yoghurt, garlic, cucumber), hummus (chick peas and sesame paste) with pita bread.

Fish baked in a tomato sauce. Plenty of rice and orzo (rice pasta).

Fatty meats; moussaka and pastitsio. Limit the use of olive oil. Casseroles made with plenty eggs and cheese. Baklava.
JapaneseControl your fat intake by ordering foods that are "yaki" (broiled or grilled), "nimono" (simmered), or variations thereof. For example, beef teriyaki and chicken yakitori. "Shashimi" (raw fish) and "sushi" (vinegared rice prepared with seaweed, raw fish and/or vegetables). Cesium with shredded "wasabi" (strong horseradish sauce), tofu dishes and "miso" (fermented soybean) soup are good options."Tempura", "agemono" and "katsu" refer to foods that are breaded and fried.
South AfricanOstrich and venison

Samp & Beans


Lean bredies or curries

Lean mince OR Fish Bobotie


Sago pudding

Crustless milktart

Bread and Butter pudding

Pancakes with cinnamon, sugar or fruit






Fast Foods

(e.g. Nandos, Steers, McDonalds)

Salad or chicken burger or steak sandwich with chutney or tomato, barbecue or monkey gland sauce

Chicken kebab or char-grilled chicken with rolls or pita bread or rice

Baked potato topped with low fat cheese or lean meat, chicken and mushrooms

Sandwiches, wraps, subs or rolls with lean meat, chicken/ cottage cheese/fish with lots of salads

Lean meat or vegetable curry with rice

Corn salad or three bean salad

Fried Fish and slap chips




-Source: Practical Nutrition for Rugby by Dieticians Shelley Meltzer and Cecily Fuller, courtesy SA Rugby.




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