HANDY HEALTH HACKS FOR CHAIN RESTAURANTS
Ottis Bailey - March 2022
Typical, you’ve been dragged out to eat on a Friday night (gotta fill up before those cocktails) but you want to avoid feeling sluggish and a lil’ bit heavier come Saturday morning. Or, you're swept off your feet at lunch time and have to go for the classic Pret and dash.But what dishes to avoid when you’re at a chain restaurant so you don't end up making Jamie cry?
HERE ARE THE WORST OFFENDERS AND ABSOLUTE GEMS TO LOOK OUT FOR.
And no — we’re not just gonna recommend the salad every time as the best option for every restaurant, we’re sure you already knew that the salad is going to come out on top from a calorie-counting point of view.
But we’re assuming that when you go out to a restaurant you’re trying to enjoy yourself and get some wholesome carby goodness too! It’s possible to go out and come back feeling fulfilled, not bloated — honest! First up:
PRET A MANGER
As we're returning to the office, we're also returning to Pret. It's inevitable, really. When you’re rushed off your feet at lunch and have to go for the classic Pret stop, just keep these tips in mind:
The worst options:
The Vegan Cookie (398 Kcal)
Just because something is vegan, doesn’t make it healthy. We know — it's the biggest hit since finding out Santa isn't real. This cookie is a good example of this paradox, with close to 400 calories. It's the same as one of Pret’s sandwiches!
Plus, with 30g of added sugar, that's all of your daily allowance of sugar in one cookie — oops!
Chocolate Shake (439 Kcal)
The worst drink option (perhaps unsurprisingly) is their truly indulgent Chocolate Shake, coming in at a whopping 439 calories and more than 60g of sugar (twice your RDA!)
The best option:
Tuna Nicoise salad & peppermint tea or black coffee (455 Kcal)
This salad's packing a good source of protein and healthy fats with 455 calories and low sat fat.
It's a great lower-carbohydrate option to help you feel fuller for longer. Pair this with a peppermint tea or a Black Americano, if you need a kick up the behind post-lunch time!
Bonus Best-Breakfast Option!
Bircher Muesli (309 Kcal)
This little bowl's got granola soaked overnight with yoghurt, honey and freshly grated apple. Every morning, it’s topped with pistachios and mixed seeds. Only 309 calories, but packing a solid combo of complex carbohydrates from the oats, 14g of protein from the yoghurt and healthy fats from the nuts and seeds.
You really can't beat a Wagamamas, its menu is jam packed with mouth-watering Asian fusion cuisine. But what should you go for and what should you avoid? Surely not just a salad? We've got you.
The worst option:
Hot Chicken Katsu Curry (1140 Kcal)
This heavier dish contains 1,140 calories per serving, as well as being high in sugar, and saturated fat.
To reduce the carbohydrate content and increase the fibre, you could opt for brown rice instead. This is one to enjoy occasionally as part of a balanced diet (A cheat day fave basically!)
Sides to steer clear from:
Veggie Tempura (384 Kcal)
Crispy fried broccoli, red pepper, sweet potato and asparagus, topped with wakame.
Tasty, but 400 calories is a lot for a starter! Plus, the protein content is low, and the carb and fat content is high – not a winning combination. And don’t rely on this for one of your five-a-day. This tempura is fried, which destroys nutritious oils, enzymes and prebiotics that raw or steamed veg would give you.
The best options:
Naked Katsu (607 Kcal)
Grilled curried chicken with edamame beans, shredded carrots, seasoned mixed greens, and Japanese pickles on a bed of brown rice. Served with a side of katsu curry sauce.
This dish is perhaps the most balanced, healthful, and colorful on the menu. It's low in sugar, high in protein, and high in fiber, minerals, and slow-release carbs, making it a clear winner.
Runner (bean) up!
Chicken Ramen (516 Kcal)
Noodle dishes are not off-limits. In your ramen bowl, you'll find chicken, noodles, and vegetables, all covered with a light broth, which is high in protein and low in fat. Bone broth helps support digestive health, and is a good source of glutamine, which is the major fuel for the cells of our gut lining.
This dish also boasts one of the lowest calorie counts for a main course. Ask for wholegrain noodles for extra health-points.
BONUS ROUND: NANDO'S
Nothing beats a Nando's for a relatively healthy protein boost. But you need to make sure your meaty protein boost isn't coming at the expense of too much sat fat! But what's the best option to avoid unnecessary carbs and sugars?
The worst option:
Beanie wrap + peri-salted fries and perinaise (1271 Kcal)
The veggie wrap might seem like a healthy option because it contains beans, a healthy source of protein and fibre. In reality, it is very high in carbs (153 grams!) and fat (58.6 grams of fat, 8.7g of sat fats) and relatively low in protein (28.7g) compared to other Nando's options.
This one also contains close to your allowance of daily sugar (26.1 grams) and is pretty high in calories (1271 calories) but if you're a vegetarian, this might be one of the only options you've got at Nandos.
Winner winner Chicken Dinner:
Grilled chicken salad (552 Kcal)
Opting for a tasty, high protein, low sugar (8g) choice such as chicken breast and a side of veggies will help you stay satisfied for much longer and ensure your body gets plenty of essential nutrients. You won't even miss the wrap, promise! (ok, you might miss the perinaise, but hold strong!)
If you want to dodge the salad, we recommend a side of "Spicy Rice" or"Saucy Spinach" instead. We know those peri-fries are incredible, but try a different side and watch your Cheeky nando's turn into a seriously nutritious meal.
Next time we dive further into the menus of the high-street, to look into the best healthy pizza options, plus how to do your coffee run like you'd do a real run (burning off those calories!).