Heroes and villains of the room service menu
We take a look at some traditional room service menu items and give you the run-down on what to eat, what to avoid – and why.
Eating well can be a challenge when you’re travelling. Bupa dietitian Rosalyn D'Angelo gives us the low down on the best and worst choices usually found on a room-service menu.
“Typically, room-service menus offer processed, takeaway-type comfort foods such as chips and burgers,” says Rosalyn D'Angelo, an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Bupa. “With a little bit of consideration, you can make a healthy choice, or ask the kitchen to make a few tweaks to improve the meal.
“Unless it’s really late, I’d encourage people to get out of their room and go for a walk to find a healthy breakfast or dinner option. You’ll have much more choice, better quality food, and it will give you a chance to get out of your room and get some incidental exercise.”
D’Angelo also suggests avoiding the trap of the mini-bar by instead picking up some healthy snacks on your way to the hotel room, such as untoasted muesli, small tubs of plain yoghurt, milk, fresh fruit, pre-chopped vegetables and hummus. Keep these in the mini-bar fridge for when you’re feeling peckish after hours.
When room service really is the only choice, D’Angelo recommends taking a few minutes to assess the menu and try these healthier food swaps.
This is typically made up of highly refined carbohydrates and sugar (bread, croissants, pastries, fruit juice, jam), which is likely to leave you feeling hungry an hour or two later and doesn't offer much in the way of nutrition.
Alternative: Porridge is a whole grain that is packed with fibre for gut health. It’s also low GI, which means it will give you a stable source of energy to tide you through to lunchtime. Boost the nutrition value by adding fresh fruit and yoghurt.
Cooked breakfasts, such as Eggs Benedict, bacon and hash browns, are high in salt and saturated fat.
Alternative: Poached or boiled eggs are a great source of protein to help keep you fuller for longer. You can sneak in a few vegetables on the side, too, such as mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes.
On their own, pancakes are basically just sugar and flour, and are especially problematic if topped with syrup.
Alternative: Add some nutritional value by topping with fresh fruit and yoghurt, or go for wholegrain toast topped with sliced banana instead.
It takes four to five oranges to get one glass of juice, so you’re getting the sugar of that many oranges without feeling full.
Alternative: Have a piece or two of fruit instead.
Hamburger with fries or wedges
Hamburgers are usually made with fatty meat, which is high in saturated fat. French fries or wedges are also high in unhealthy fats, as well as salt.
Alternative: Go for a grilled chicken or salad sandwich on wholegrain bread instead, with a side of vegetables or salad. Aim for half of your meal to be salad or vegetables. But beware of salad dressings – ask for it on the side and only use a little bit, if at all.
Usually made of white bread, turkey/chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. The Cancer Council advises people to limit or avoid processed meats such as sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham, which are high in fat and salt.
Alternative: Make it healthier by asking for the sandwich with wholegrain bread and without the mayonnaise and bacon, or go for a turkey/chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread instead.
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The white bit of fat on steak is what we call saturated fat, which has been linked to increased risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Alternative: Ideally, choose a lean cut of meat with no white fat, but if you're ordering off the room-service menu and you cannot choose the cut, cut the fat off before you eat it. Always choose the vegetables/salad on the side rather than fries. Or, go for a fish dish and salad, or a vegetarian meal instead.
This doughy delight can be high in saturated fat and salt due to the cheese and processed meat, and low in vegetables.
Alternative: If available, choose lean meat toppings such as turkey and chicken breast instead of ham or salami. The more vegetables the better – choose a pizza topped with eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. A vegetarian option is often a better choice.
Creamy sauces can be high in saturated fat and typically a big bowl of pasta is quite unbalanced, as there is not much of a vegetable or protein component.
Alternative: Choose a tomato-based pasta, ideally with some vegetables in the sauce. Order an entrée size and add bulk to the meal with a side of salad or vegetables.
Travelling doesn’t have to mean that healthy eating goes by the wayside. Simply take some time to weigh up the options and consider how you can make a healthier choice instead.