With new restaurants popping up here, there and everywhere serving cuisines from around the world, we’re spoilt for choice! But with most of us jumping on the health bandwagon and realising the importance of good nutrition, is there anywhere we can go to grab a guilt-free lunch?
We have spoken to our experts to give us the low down on what we should and shouldn’t be ordering at some of our favourite chain eateries.
1. Pret A Manger
“With a Pret A Manger located at almost every corner in London, this eatery is a hard one to miss. Whilst their marketing message is all about their fresh and natural food, it’s still essential to pick your food wisely.
“Sandwiches, wraps, soups and granola’s can still be jam packed with hidden salt, sugar and saturated fat. One example of these is their ‘Posh Cheddar & Pickle Baguette’. With 621 calories, this is more than a Big Mac. The baguette also has a whopping 2.7g of salt, 70g of white refined carbohydrates, and 9.2g saturated fat per small portion.
“Whilst Pret may provide some food that veers on to the unhealthy side, they still stock many healthy, fresh foods. They are completely up to date with food trends and cater for those who are diary, gluten, wheat intolerant or searching for carb -free options.
“Pret have also included spiralized courgette and cauliflower rice to their menu – perfect for diabetics or those trying to shed a few pounds. They also provide non-diary options such as their ‘Five grain porridge’ and diary-free coconut yoghurt.
“They have also made healthy snacking a whole lot easier. One of their best products so far must be their ‘Pret Pots’. These are little snack pots, all under 200 calories which, are full of fresh and healthy whole foods,” explains Lily Soutter, Nutritionist and weight loss expert at lilysoutternutrition.com. (1)
“Asian food is known to be healthy. Unfortunately this does not translate to Wasabi. Many of their sushi meals are overloaded with white refined rice, which can lead to blood sugar imbalances, fatigue, afternoon energy slumps and weight gain. Having said that, Wasabi do offer a small range of brown rice sushi, and salad pots, which can be a healthy alternative. I’d recommend choosing the likes of the Wakame seaweed salad, miso soup, salad pots or brown rice sushi.
“Watch out for their sauces, such as sweet chilli and white rice noodle soups as these are often laden with salt and sugar. And lastly, be wary around fried and tempura food which are full of unhealthy trans fats,” explains Lily.
“Pod’s ethos is all about, fresh food from good ingredients. However, at Pod it’s easy to pick a seemingly healthy meal, which in reality is not so healthy at all. One example is their breakfast smoothies. These contain up to 46g of sugar, the same amount found in a 100g bar of chocolate. The Yoghurt pots are all high in sugar.
“Another area to watch is their salt content – a regular sized ‘protein feast’ scrambled egg breakfast contains 4g of salt. This is close to our daily allowance. I’d recommend choosing the Energizer scrambled egg, as this is fairly low in salt. The porridge and all the salads without a dressing is a good option.
“Before eating at Pod, it’s vital to look at the nutrition content of their food to double check the salt and sugar content, as these vary dramatically between dishes. Saying that, a vast majority of their food is great. Pod have incorporated a range of superfoods into their dishes, and provide numerous gluten free, diary free and vegan options. Their salads are fresh and tasty, and they have a super healthy range of snacking pots,” explains Lily.
“EAT caters for all. It has the super food salads for their health conscious customers, as well as 800 calorie beef and ale pies! It’s a real mix of unhealthy vs healthy foods so researching the menu is key to making the right choices.
“Soups can hide up to 3g of salt per portion and sandwiches up to 3.4g of salt – over half our daily allowance. The safest option at EAT would be to choose their salads and to dress your own with olive oil and lemon juice. They also serve tasty porridge for breakfast and are on par with healthy food trends by serving a high protein quinoa and buckwheat porridge. The avocado on sourdough toast and their chia pots are also one of the best choices!” says Lily.
5. Café Rouge
“I tend to opt for their nicoise salad, this is delicious! It contains hot smoked salmon and olives. These are both great sources of the health promoting nutrient omega 3. The sauce is a vinaigrette, so you don’t have to worry too much about a sauce adding to the calories. It also contains egg, which is free range. This will add some more protein to the dish to help keep you fuller for longer.
“You also have the benefit of having additional French beans which add to the nutrient content. There are plenty of healthy choices at Café Rouge and nothing too bad that you should avoid. However, I would probably not go for the burger and chips option,” explains Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com (2) the online shopping destination for health & wellbeing.
6. Pizza Express
“Pizza Express offer a gluten free menu as well as a ‘lighter’ menu which is lower in calories. I love their pizza called Leggera Pollo and Astra. This is from the lighter menu, which means that it is less than 500 calories. It has a thinner base and is piled with salad in the middle. This pizza contains chicken for protein, some light mozzarella, peppers, tomatoes and red onion. It also contains garlic oil. Garlic contains a Sulphur compound, which is thought to be protective to the cardiovascular system.
I would avoid the Hawaiian ‘Pizza Express’ pizza. This contains a whopping 1,307 calories per pizza! These calories come mainly from the large amount of cheese coupled with a béchamel base. Not a pizza to eat if you’re trying to lose weight!” explains Shona.
7. Gourmet Burger Kitchen
“GBK is known for being 100% prime beef with fresh ingredients and burger sauces made from scratch, every day. They also provide a separate gluten free menu, which is great. If you want a burger, I would probably go for the avocado & bacon burger and ask for the mayo to be served on the side – by doing this you are ensuring that you get enough protein without the calories. It’s always a good habit to remove the top bun as well and just eat the burger to help avoid a carb crash!
“Add their simple green salad as a side dish for a tasty yet healthy meal. I would avoid burgers, which contain too much cheese and mayo, as these can up the calories. Always ask for any sauces to be served on the side so you have control over the amount you use. If you must go for fries, opt for the sweet potato fries, which don’t affect your blood sugar levels as much. This will help avoid that energy slump some people feel after a meal,” says Shona.
“Prezzo has a huge menu for you to choose from. I always enjoy their seabass. Fish is nearly always a good option to go for due to their omega 3 health benefits. Their seabass is exceptionally good as it is served with basil pesto, edamame, mung beans, mange tout and spinach. The mange tout and spinach are incredibly nutrient dense, with great amounts of B vitamins to help with energy. It also has the added benefit of being gluten free.
“It is almost impossible to find the ingredients and nutrient values from their menu, but I would probably avoid the calzone. These tend to be incredibly high in fat and calories but low in nutrients,” explains Shona.
9. Five Guys
“The best you can do at Five Guys is eat small portions. Go for the little burger or you can opt for the veggie sandwich, which may be the nearest thing to healthy that you will get here.
“Be aware that the chips are cooked in peanut oil which could be a problem for anyone who has an allergy to peanuts. You could try ordering the burger without the roll and asking them to serve it with veggies from the veggie sandwich they serve,” says Shona.
“Nandos is actually an incredibly healthy place to eat at. There are many delicious and healthy items to go for. Try opting for a chicken on the bone with a side of corn and the cob or chargrilled veg. This is a great meal for getting your protein and veg intake.
“Try the extra hot chicken if you can tolerate it! Chillies contain an ingredient called capsaicin, which is thought to help with weight loss. You could also go for my favourite, which is their quinoa salad – this contains some seeds and avocado, which are great for their omega 3 content. I would avoid the chips or the garlic bread, but the majority of the menu you can eat guilt-free. Just remember portion sizes!” says Shona.