How To Eat Healthy At Any Restaurant

by Natalie on May 22, 2014

eatingout.jpgDo you feel like it’s impossible to eat healthy because you’re forced to dine out a lot for work or travel?

My husband and I like to travel as much as possible and I agree that healthy eating can be a challenge. Most cities aren’t equipped with a Whole Foods…

When I am forced to eat at a less than healthy restaurant, here are 6 principles I try to stick to. *Note- I am not perfect! On special occasions, I like to indulge and order whatever I want off the menu. These 6 principles are for all other times when you’re trying to stick to your healthy diet.

1. Choose water as your beverage

This is the simplest way to make any restaurant meal more healthy. Water contains zero sugar, so it tops the list as the healthiest beverage to drink while dining out. Sick of plain ole’ water? Other healthy options include sparkling water with lemon, and unsweetened ice tea.

2. Stick to one carb

Ordering a sandwich or burger? The bun has more than enough carbs. Don’t put gasoline on the fire by choosing fries as your side. Try a side salad, grilled vegetables, or a cup of non-creamy soup instead. How about tacos? There’s a lot of carb in those tortillas. Skip the rice and just get the beans, or better yet, get vegetables if they have them.

3. Order from the entree section of the menu

In general, the healthiest options can be found in the entree section. What do I mean by entree section? Skip over the sandwich and pasta sections and head for the area of the menu that offers some sort of protein with vegetables. This could be any variation of fish/poultry/beef with a vegetable selection. Example: grilled cod with asparagus spears.

4. Skip the appetizer (in most cases)

Unless you are starving, it’s wise to skip the appetizer section. Sometimes the appetizers are so rich, they could stand as a meal on their own. Top that with your dinner selection and you’ve gone way overboard. If you must have an appetizer, go for a green side salad or a cup of non-creamy soup.

5. Double up on vegetables (especially the green ones)

This is another really easy way to make your restaurant meal more healthy. Many options (especially for dinner) come with some sort of starch (potatoes, rice, pasta), and a vegetable. Ask your server to swap the starch for double vegetables instead. For example, you order roast chicken and it comes with lemon rice and sautéed spinach. Ask to have no rice and double spinach. Most restaurants will do this no questions asked.

6. When all else fails, order a salad.

Most restaurants offer salads these days, even many fast food places. If you are truly at a loss on what to order, go for the salad. Make sure its not loaded with cheese and fried meat though. Choose a vinegar based dressing and you’ll be good to go.

Healthier Options I Like To Order At Restaurants

Mexican

  • Chicken fajitas without cheese and sourcream + black beans (no rice)
  • Burrito bowl: brown rice, black beans, meat (usually chicken), lots of salsa, lettuce, guacamole. Chipotle anyone?

Thai

  • Tom yum soup (appetizer)
  • Basil Chicken or coconut curry with chicken + brown rice or double vegetables if brown rice not available.

American Style

  • Big salads with balsamic dressing and protein (either chicken, shrimp, or sliced steak). I usually do not get cheese on my salads, and I definitely avoid any fried meat. On a recent road trip, I ordered a cashew chicken salad from Culvers and it was pretty good.
  • Grilled or roasted salmon with vegetables. I love sautéed spinach or broccoli.
  • Roasted chicken with vegetables.
  • Jimmy Johns “unwich”. A tad too low carb for me. I like it best paired with some fruit like an apple.
  • Half salad and bean soup or chili

Do you have any tips to share on making healthy choices at restaurants? Share them below by leaving a comment to this post.

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