There's still time to cash in on the government's 'Eat Out To Help Out' scheme and get 50% discount off your bill. Launched this month, the scheme runs until 31st August and so far has been used more than 35 million times.
Not sure how it works? Let us explain. You're allowed 50% off your food, up to the value of £10. You won't get a discount on alcoholic drinks, but it does apply to food and soft drinks. Oh, and it's only valid on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of the month. The government website neatly lays it all out for you should you want to sink your teeth into the finer T&Cs.
One thing we do need to stress is that you need to book. Some London restaurants had zero availability before the scheme even launched, but lucky for you, there are still thousands of options all over the country with availability. Keen to take advantage of offer with a cold drink in hand and a meal cooked by someone else, without totally veto-ing all nutrient-dense food altogether? WH read your mind.
Harley Street registered nutritionist Emily English (@emthenutritionist) has handpicked what she'd eat at eight of the Eat Out scheme's most popular chains, from Wagamama, to Pizza Express, to Nando's. Her response? 'Eating out is good for the soul. Delicious food doesn’t have to compromise good health—remember, the nutrient-dense option isn’t necessarily the boring one'.
Keep reading for her picks–pizza and all.
While you may assume that most of the Wagamama menu is nutrient-dense, thanks to seemingly veg-packed broths and noodle dishes, Emily warns that its menu has many hidden calories. Obviously there's much more to food than just calories, but one chicken katsu curry is as calorie dense as a McDonald's quarter pounder meal with cheese. Yep.
Emily's go-to? 'The seared nuoc cham tuna—it's a seared tuna steak that comes with quinoa, stir-fried kale, sweet potato, edamame beans, carrots, red onion, peppers and coriander. It's delicious'.
Nutrition win? 'This meal ticks off a whopping 8 portions of veg—ideally, you should be aiming for 30 different types of plant foods a week. This dish really does provide the chance to eat the rainbow: it's packed full of vibrant greens, oranges and purples, all indicative of phytochemicals, which are amazing antioxidants'.
Everybody loves a Nando's—even Stormzy, who nearly broke the Internet last year when he got given a Nando's black card. But what would Emily opt for if she were to eat out at the Peri popular chain?
Emily's go-to? 'A simple chicken pitta with a side of macho peas'.
Nutrition win? 'The peas pack your meal with an extra punch of plant protein and also provide dietary fibre, which keeps you full. Plus, the chicken provides you with plenty of protein and the pitta slow release carbs, for energy. Of course, have chips if you fancy, but be mindful: one portion is the same amount of calories as eating another entire chicken pitta.
Contrary to what you might have pre-empted, Emily doesn't suggest ordering Pizza Express' infamous under 500 cal pizza, which slashes the total energy by serving with a hole in the middle. Why? 'If you are going out and eating a pizza from time-to-time, you should be able to enjoy whatever pizza you want. Indulgence has a place within a healthy balanced lifestyle', she shares.
Emily's go-to? 'The Fiorentina pizza, which is a Romana base topped with spinach, free-range egg, mozzarella, tomato, garlic oil, black olives and Gran Milano cheese.'
Nutrition win? 'Gran Milano cheese actually acts as a probiotic, helping your gut to encourage a healthy microbiome full of 'good' bifidobacteria and lactobacilli strains.'
With a vibrant Latin American menu packed full of different flavours and traditional Mexican and Brazilian cuisine, Emily would choose a vegetarian option to up your fibre, vitamin and mineral intake for the day.
Emily's go-to? 'The portobello mushroom fajita stack.'
Nutrition win? 'Building your own fajitas or tacos gives you control for how much you are putting into each wrap. While cheese, sour cream and guacamole can all play a part in a healthy diet and have nutrition perks, too much can be heavy on your energy budget.'
'Fun fact: portobello mushrooms have the same amount of potassium as a banana compared weight to weight, which can help prevent water retention aka bloating.'
Fan of all things Italian? Prezzo's line up boasts pastas, pizzas, calzone's and more, but Emily would keep it simple with a tomato-based pasta dish.
Emily's go-to? 'The spaghetti with king prawns in a garlic, chilli and tomato sauce.'
Nutrition win? 'White sauces can often be high in saturated fats, so I like opting for a tomato sauce if I'm eating pasta out. Tomatoes are your main dietary source of lycopene, an antioxidant which can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Plus, in this dish, prawns are a great source of protein and selenium, an antioxidant vital for maintaining cell health.'
While Emily maintains that eating red meat should be done little rather than often due to the environmental impact of red meat, nutritionally speaking, beef can be particularly beneficial.
Emily's go-to? 'Three slow-cooked beef tacos.'
Nutrition win? 'Red meat is a key source of heme iron, which is much more easily absorbed than iron from plant-based sources. Iron is one of the most common deficiencies in the UK, particularly for teenagers and pregnant women, plus some are at a genetic risk of iron deficiency, so incorporating heme iron is really important'.
If you're not a fish fan, turn away now—but, nutritionally speaking, incorporating fish into your diet weekly is essential for omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Emily's go-to? 'The Salmone Al Forno, ala oven-baked salmon fillet served with onions, pancetta, baby vine tomatoes and a cannellini bean and sugar snap pea ragú.'
Nutrition win? 'It's recommended to eat at least one portion of oily fish a week, so this salmon would tick that box. As above, the fish is full of essential omega-3 fats, which are important for heart health and reduction of unnecessary inflammation.'
A big fan of small plates and sharing, Emily encourages you to mix up your meals out and try something new. 'I think sharing brings everyone together, which is great after such a period of isolation', she shares.
Psst: Just ensure you maintain social distancing and hygiene rules.
Emily's go-to? 'I would share some humous, pil pil prawns and padron peppers.'
Nutrition win? 'Houmous offers fibre and slow release carbohydrates. while the chilli in the pil pil dish can help give your metabolism a boost. Plus, you can't go wrong with a side of padron peppers, which are jam packed with vitamin C, helpful for immunity'.