Michele Walton

Guest blog post: how to eat out without putting on weight or blowing your budget

Michele Walton
Michele Walton

Today’s post features my good friend Michele Walton, who is going to share with us how to eat out healthily and frugally. This is a topic dear to my heart, as I love good food, I love going out with friends, and (being a frugalista) I love a good bargain. I also struggle with my weight, and since I have a wedding dress to fit in to, I want to address that while still living the good life.Michele Walton is a foodie friend who just oozes style and grace.  She always looks fabulous, cooks and writes about fabulous food, and exudes good health and wellbeing. It is therefore unsurprising that she is a nutritionist who has her own food coaching platform online.  She is also adept at dining out on a budget, so she has some great insights to share

How long have you been blogging?

I started back in 2013 with FineEating.Com. I’d arrived in Canberra to find a wealth of delicious eateries and real a ‘dining out’ culture! As a dietitian, I quickly needed to find strategies to eat out often and keep a healthy weight.  

How has your blogging changed over time?

My original website FineEating.Com was a mix of healthy weight tips and food and travel adventures. That was a bit confusing for my readers so I’m now specialising.FoodLoversDietitian.Com majors on delicious eating for a healthy weight. FoodAndTravelSecrets.Com concentrates on dining out, travel and cooking. There’s still plenty of cross-pollination, but the new websites are much easier for readers to find what they need. I’ve also introduced more images and video because food and travel is just so gorgeous on the eye! And now of course I’ve just launched my Food Lovers Healthy Weight Coaching because so many people were asking for that more personal experience. Those who have started already are really appreciating the daily support and encouragement and already finding it’s really helped them make some great changes to the way they enjoy food.

You seem to really love Indian cuisine.  What is your connection to India?

Well spotted! I just love visiting India and coming home to try the dishes I’ve learned. We head over every year when it’s freezing in Canberra but gorgeously warm and quiet in India. We’ve found luxurious spots to stay, wonderful low season prices and the loveliest hosts who welcome me into their kitchens. All for around $100 a day. This June-July I’ll be writing a Step by Step Guide to Easy South India in Style!

Dining out used to be synonymous with eating unhealthy food – especially for lower-priced restaurants.  Is this still the case?

It’s all about choosing only what you really love, savouring small serves, sharing dishes and taking the rest with you to enjoy later.

What are your best tips for dining out on a budget?

Did you know that waistline friendly dining is actually wallet friendly too! When you order for the perfect portion size it costs you less. Here are my top tips:

  • Share!

The best way to Eat Out and choose the perfect portion for you is to share dishes. And the easiest way to share dishes is to choose a cuisine that’s designed for sharing.

Asian, Middle-Eastern and some European dishes are traditionally put in the centre of the table. This style of eating works well for groups eating out. However, many modern and fusion restaurant menus are now also planned around tapas and shared plates. Staff can help pick dishes with smaller pieces or larger pieces that can easily be divided. They can also tell you how many individual pieces are in a dish like prawns, spring rolls, duck pancakes. Then you know how many plates to order. However, single pieces can easily be split so that everyone has a piece, you just need a sharp knife.

  • Order Less!

Do order less than you think, especially of breads and rice, you can always get more if you need it. Three mains, three rice and three breads is usually perfect for a group of six. Everybody gets to taste several dishes, but still leaves feeling comfortable and saving dollars. Cafe brekkie dishes and lunch dishes can be twice the size of what you’d normally eat at home. This makes them perfect for sharing between two people.

It can feel weird to tweak the menu to work better for you. But be assured that restaurants and cafes want you to ask for what you need, so you have a good experience and want to come back. They don’t know what would make your meal work better unless you tell them. The trick is just to ask humbly and with gratitude and be prepared to accept that it may not be possible. I always ask for extra serving spoons for dishes and an extra plate and I’ve never been knocked back. I also often need a knife and it’s no problem. These are easy things for eateries to provide, especially if they understand that you want to share so you can taste more of their delicious food.

  • Skip the Banquet

When you’re eating out it can look like the easy option is to just get the banquet. But it’s much better to have control over the dishes you get and the amount, so why not design your own? Often it’s good to check out the menu and reviews before you arrive and have a plan in mind. If a restaurant has an Instagram or Facebook page where they post photos of meals, that is terribly helpful too.

  • Aim small, taste big!

Sharing dishes or even better tasting plates can be much more rewarding than ordering alone. You get to try a number of different foods in smaller amounts and aren’t just limited to one or two dishes, that may or may not be so good. By savouring slowly and eating each mouthful mindfully you can have maximum pleasure, stay comfortable and save money.

  • You don’t have to order vegetables!

There are no rules! No “shoulds” when it comes to choosing. You don’t have order salad or vegetables nor do you have to get the bread or rice! Only order foods because they are interesting options or compliment other dishes well, otherwise you end up eating them on top of what you really want to eat and paying more than you need to.

What are your favourite Canberra good value food destinations?

Muse $22 Lunch weekday special includes a glass of wine and I love their salads of the day.  Others have really enjoyed the pasta of the day and the Ploughman’s Board.

Akiba $18 Bite and Bolt Lunch (weekdays) has three courses and is amazing.

Some of my favourite Entertainment Book vouchers to use for lunch would be Buvette, Belluci’s Manuka, Gryphon’s, Beef & Barley, Chifley Bar & Grill, Hale & Mary.  [Ms Frugal Ears note: I have dined at Buvette and Chifley and used vouchers at Belluci’s, so I concur.  Thanks to Michele’s recommendation I also discovered Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant – and made use of the Entertainment Book voucher.]  Penny University is in the 2018/19 book and I love that spot.

Do you enjoy eating out? If so, how do you ensure that the experience is healthy and budget friendly?  


  1. Some good tips there! Share plates has always been my go to but sometimes hard to do if you have friends with different dietary needs. Otherwise it’s the best way to sample more choices with less consumption or wastage.!

    1. I love shared plates, too. I guess it is such an integral part of the Chinese dining experience …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *