Hidden Dangers – and not so hidden ones of eating out

Life out there for those of us on any kind of weight management journey is full of hidden dangers.  There’s countless social media posts about “I went to so-and-so place and ordered X but it came slathered with oil/butter/dressing”.

What hidden dangers are in your day?

So what are these hidden dangers and how do we know and avoid them?

Fat Free?

What a wonderful label to see on an item.  “Fat Free” must be good for you right? If only. One (questionable) hidden benefit from fat is that it imparts flavour. If they remove the fat but want a similar flavour to the “full fat” option – then it’s typically replaced by a sweetening agent. The most common sweetening agent in the world is of course sugar (and any sugar derivatives such as honey). This is why a lot of “fat-free” flavoured yogurt is not Syn free on the Slimming World plans. Same for “Low Fat” items too.

Of course there’s artificial sweeteners out there (and I won’t get into the debate of the different kinds of sweeteners and their possible effects on your health – there’s plenty of sites that talk about the pros and cons of each of them – but rarely on the same site so you do need to do your research and make your own mind up based on what the different sites present.  Remember that most of the “anti” sites are probably selling an alternative, usually at a huge markup whilst offering the site owner a commission deal (which they should tell you somewhere on the page but often don’t). In other words – there’s a financial incentive to spread whatever story is being told – regardless if that story is fact or fiction.

On the subject of sweetener (not that it’s going to be hidden)

At least in terms of the Slimming World plans – even artificial sweetener could contain hidden dangers in terms of what Slimming World call Syns.  For at least 18months now – Sweetener in quantities of more than 1 tablespoon has syns. Some people ignore this, and some recipes may not have been updated to show this. As I always say – check recipes and syn values carefully. None of use website owners want to deliberately mislead you on syn values, but  recipes can easily be out of date due to changes in the plan. We’re human as well and have lives to lead away from our sites.

The “hidden” dangers of eating out/takeaways

This is where a lot of people find out that the healthy looking options on the menu aren’t that healthy after all.

Salads that are covered in dressing (no doubt an oil/fat based dressing) can be avoided by asking for no dressing or for it to be put in a pot on the side – most places would be happy to do this – if they’re not, you’re not eating in the right establishment.

Grilled steaks are healthy if you don’t eat the fat? Not if they’ve been brushed with oil or butter or basted in the pan though. That nice glistening steak on the plate in front of you is glistening for a reason.  Ask if they do this before ordering and if so, ask if the chef wouldn’t do it for your meal. If the answer is no, order something else or even somewhere else.

Jacket spuds…  A nice healthy option.  In most places. There was (and it still persists) a rumour that one of the large pub chains deep fry their baked potatoes. Their head office has and continues to deny this happens but that’s one chain out of how many? It may be worth asking if you want to keep the syns/calories/points down.  Remembering also to ask for no butter on the potato as that will otherwise be added in most cases.

Sauces and gravies – these will nearly always be made with either fat or cream as the base (there’s a few that are tomato based though), possibly with sugar added too.

Vegetables can’t have any hidden “dangers” can they?  Depends. Again there’s the possibility of adding butter to peas/carrots to give them that wonderful looking shine. That said – I hear that a growing number of places have stopped this. Mainly in case the person is dairy intolerant and not to cut the calories. Still – it’s worth asking if you’re worried about it.

Still on the subject of vegetables. One of my local kebab shops offers a choice with their shish kebabs. Shish kebabs usually being on skewers and grilled to order (as opposed to doner style ones). You can have their “standard” kebab – which is just chicken or lamb (which will be in a marinade – so who knows the dangers there) or a “special”.  What makes it so “special” – it comes with onion, peppers and mushrooms.  The description makes it sound that the vegetables are part of the skewered meat – alas they’re not. They’re cooked to order along side the usual skewered meat when needed. I’ve stood there and watched as these vegetables are placed not on the grill as you’d expect but in the fryer.  Deep fried vegetables.

In Summary

Don’t be afraid of eating out – just be aware where “hidden dangers” may lie when you do. And remember just because something is low-calorie/low-fat/fat free – it may still not fit within your chosen meal plan. You can do the research before hand (most chains and a lot of “independent” places will have menus online if you look ahead. And don’t be afraid of asking for changes (if there’s a specific dish you would like but wonder if they can change one of the ingredients – it may be worth calling ahead to check).  Some people advocate telling a little white lie “I’m allergic to *” or “I can’t eat *”. Not a technique I like personally – especially in chain restaurants where things may come in ready-made (so the chef has no control of the ingredients nor necessarily have alternatives). But enjoy – just be forewarned.  🙂


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