Let me paint you a picture.

It’s your day off and you’ve got a morning at the shops planned.  You’re so eager to get the kids out the door and off to school so you can enjoy your morning of retail therapy, that you’ve packed their lunches on autopilot.

You didn’t pack any snacks for yourself because you were too busy daydreaming about all the goodies you’re going to buy at Kmart today, that you didn’t think even think about the ideas your stomach might have come mid-morning.

So, the kids are finally at school and you’ve just scored the park of the century and the “day of you” has started well.

The morning flies by and before you know it it’s 12.30 pm.

You didn’t plan on spending this long at the shops, but you spent way too long (and way too much money) in Kmart and now it’s lunch time and you’re hungry.

So, the food court is calling, and you want to make a good choice, but one of two things happen.

You’re starving (cause, no snacks), so you head straight for Uncle Tony’s to order a large kebab full of all the carby and fatty goodness your over-hungry brain is calling out for right now.

Or, you are so overwhelmed by all the options (there are almost 100 options to choose from at one of the Westfields in South East Queensland) available that you just end up going for whoever has the shortest line.

Then halfway through you wonder if what you chose really was the best option and all the self care fuel you’ve just topped up your tank with from a child-free morning of retail therapy get depleted with the negative self talk.

So, instead of ruining your vibe and your day, I have a few tips to ensure your next day of retail therapy doesn’t end this way.

Don’t get too hungry

Be prepared

This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you.  Pack yourself some small snacks that you can have when hunger strikes.

Don’t ignore your hunger

Speaking of hunger. Don’t ignore it.  When you get that niggle mid-morning, whip out an easy to eat a snack and satisfy the urge.  Something like an apple, some nuts or a muesli bar are all good options.  Sometimes I’ve even found myself ducking into Coles or Woollies for a single banana.  Honouring your hunger when it strikes will help you to make a better decision in the food court if that is where you eventually find yourself.

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Healthier options

So, you’ve had a sensible nibble mid-morning and now your hunger has just begun to gently resurface.  How do you make a great choice at the food court?  Here is my advice.

Bakery or sandwich bar

Wholegrain sandwich with lots of salad and 1 lean protein, like cheese, fish, ham, chicken or roast meat.


Roast beef, pork, chicken with peas, pumpkin and green salad


Grilled fish with salad or vegetables or a grilled fish wrap with salad.  Avoid the battered or crumbed fish option.

Salad bars

Greek salads, tabbouleh or mixed green salads are a great option.  Choosing a salad with quinoa, barley, cracked wheat (as in tabbouleh) or rice will be a filling option.  Just avoid the salads with heavy creamy dressings.  A little dressing is ok, just don’t get them if they are swimming in it.


Choose 2 handrolls filled with either avocado, avocado & cucumber, tuna & avocado, tuna & corn, tuna & cucumber, salmon or teriyaki chicken.


 Choose the small size with a chicken, lamb or felafel filling plus lots of vegetables/salads.  Ask for a small sprinkling of cheese (they tend to get a bit heavy-handed).


Burritos, fajitas, soft tacos or quesadilla are good options.  Avoid the chips that these options often come with and go for the smaller sized option.


Small thin crust pizza with vegetable toppings and 1 type of lean meat.  Avoid the thick or cheese stuffed crusts and excessive meat toppings.  Limit your serve size to 3 pizza slices (or less) per meal, and order a salad bowl on the side to fill you up.

For more options when eating out check out this excellent fact sheet from Baker IDI.

Don’t drink your calories

Now, I love a coffee or a milkshake as much as the next person (ok, maybe a little more?).

Coffee, whilst delicious and sometimes essential on a shopping trip can be a big calorie trap.

Be careful when you say “it’s just a coffee” because there’s a big difference between the calories in a long black and the calories in a cappuccino.

Liquid calories are an easy way to overconsume energy without noticing that you’re doing it.

Don’t fall into the trap, avoid the sugary (although utterly delicious) drinks like milkshakes, soft drinks, juices and milky coffees and go for water, black coffee (I have mine with just a whisker of milk) or if you do choose the sugary option, make sure it’s a small portion. Enjoy it, but there’s no need to have a large when a small will do.

Now, go and enjoy your next day out shopping

These are the strategies I use and suggest to all my clients to help them lose weight while still enjoying eating out without feeling like they are sabotaging their weight loss goals. 

It’s important to be prepared, but if you get into the habit, you’ll have no trouble making a great choice in the food court. 

Bookmark this page and use it as a reference until you get the hang of things. 

Here’s to your next great day out shopping!

Find healthy eating time consuming and confusing?  The Ultimate Meal Planning Toolkit makes it easier.  Download my FREE toolkit now by simply clicking the link below.