How To Eat Healthy In Restaurants

We’ve talked quite a bit about shopping, cooking and food storage to maintain a healthy whole foods diet.

Sometimes, though, cooking at home just isn’t feasible.

Perhaps you’re away from home for a few days, attending a business lunch or going on a date. Maybe your day really IS absolutely crazy.

And then there’s the possibility that your dog snatched your lunch off the kitchen counter at the very moment you’re picking up your keys to leave for work. (What are the chances, you ask? I don’t have statistics—I just know that it happened to me. Bad dog!)

It could be that you just want someone else to do the cooking. What the heck, we all deserve to be pampered sometimes!

Whatever the reason, here you are…wondering how to eat healthy in restaurants. You worked so hard to clean up your act at home that it can feel like a step backward to give up control of your diet to a stranger.

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to obtain the information you need to make good choices. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let’s talk turkey.

Seek The Truth. Or Maybe You Could Just Ask Your Server.

  • Ask that sauces be left off your dish unless the server can confirm that it’s made in-house from fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
  • Don’t be deceived by side dishes. Even something as seemingly straightforward as mashed potatoes can be loaded with preservatives if it’s brought in pre-made.
  • Let your server know what you’re trying to achieve and ask for his/her help. Ask what they have that is homemade or how a dish can be modified to accommodate you.

Bottom line? If your server can’t tell you (or can’t find out) what’s in it or if it’s made in-house, take a pass.


Be Alert! Be Aware! Proceed With Caution!

“Entree” salads are often loaded with processed items such as marinated meats (soaked in bottled marinade), breaded chicken (often brought in frozen), processed crunchies (tortilla strips, croutons, etc.) and pre-made salad dressings.

If you really, really want one, ask for naked meat/seafood/poultry on top of fresh veggies with freshly mixed oil and vinegar.

Buffets are full of cheap, processed foods. Take the time to walk around and look for things that are healthier options, such as meats at the carving station and fresh vegetables from the salad bar.

Keep in mind that chain restaurants are supplied by the Mother Ship from a warehouse far, far away.

It’s imperative that their customers know they can get the very same meal whether they’re in Duluth or Dallas as this sameness is what their reputation is built on.

This, of course, means that very little is left to the discretion of the kitchen staff and there is a limit on how much (if at all) they can accommodate your desire to eat healthier options. That being said, some chains are making an effort to accommodate dietary restrictions and that can be helpful.

Fine, Smarty Pants. Where And What SHOULD I Eat?

I’m glad you asked! Locally owned restaurants and small chains will note (and sometimes shout from the rooftops) if they have homemade items on their menu.

Keep an eye out for these blatant, prideful boasters and flock to them whenever possible.

Take a look at the menu before you go to the restaurant so you know in advance what your options are and what substitutes you would like to make.

Even if the restaurant doesn’t have a website, they may have a menu on their Facebook page. There are also websites that post menus from restaurants so it’s worth taking a look. Simply Google “Toms’ Pub Menu” and it’s likely you’ll find something.

Do:

  • Choose naked meats, poultry and seafood that are broiled or grilled.
  • Ask if the veggies are prepared from fresh product.
  • Request freshly mixed oil and vinegar for your salad.
  • Ask if the soups are made in-house with simple, unprocessed ingredients.
  • Order eggs!
  • Lose the saucy second side and double up on salad or steamed veggies.

For Health. For Life. For You.

One last thing: Eating out is not about the stress of what you’re going to eat. It’s not meant to be a torture chamber or make you run the gauntlet of endless food choices. As a matter of fact, it’s not about the food at all.

Eating out is all about GOING out. It’s about hanging with your friends, meeting new friends, being social or doing business.

It’s about treating yourself, making your life easier and more interesting.

As a matter of fact, research shows that being social is every bit as important to your health as what you eat! So get out there and rub a few elbows.

Have I missed anything? Do you have tips or tricks that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cyntha@cynthiaeats.com

10 Replies to “How To Eat Healthy In Restaurants”

  1. Thank you so much for the helpful post!  I really enjoyed this post because I really enjoy going out and eating with my wife and kids!  I did not realize that home town restaurants would be healthier, but I’m glad you mentioned that because we have an amazing home town place that we eat at a lot, and their food is fresh!

    1. I enjoy eating out as well and I LOVE our local breakfast place for that very reason… their fresh, homemade items (as well as their friendly service, of course!)  Please stay in touch and let me know if you liked your home town restaurant!

  2. Hello there,thanks alot for this awesome article it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.i must with all the hustle and bustle one wouldn’t have time to get a decent meal in the morning before leav for work,and you won’t also have the time to carry the meal to work.thats were these restaurant come into play and for won’t to eat in a restaurant like twice a day and remain very healthy he/she has to have a tutorship and your article has all it take for one to remain healthy while eating form a restaurant.

    1. Thank you for your kinds words and I’m happy that you found this article helpful. And you are correct…some people do, for different reasons, have no choice but to go to restaurants more often.  Eating healthy in a restaurant is possible with a little thought and planning!

  3. You make a really good point about sauces and sides. When it comes to sauces, if I really want to eats sauces but not blow up my diet, i dip my fork/ spoon in the sauce and then add it to the food so not to add way too much and mess up my diet. Most sides should be avoided unless they are made fresh and you can verify the nutritional value. 

    1. Oh, Lee, you have far more willpower than me!  If I order the sauce I gonna eat the sauce…because I’m a big fan of sauces.  I have included some sauces on my website (and there are more coming!) that I make at home to get some satisifation.  They are not all low calorie but they are freshly made and I think that’s important.  But whatever way we do it, it’s important not to deprive ourselves but to find a healthier way to indulge.  I recommend your method to anyone who has the willpower to make it work! 😉

  4. Hello Cynthia, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I like how you explained everything so well because I have that problem when we go to a restaurant. I tend to order greasy and fatty foods instead of a healthy choices. I exercise but I can’t endure when I go to such places where is food.

    1. I’m glad you found the article helpful.  For me, personally, I find it most helpful to look at the menu online before I step food in the restaurant and make my choices in advance (or at least know the questions I want to ask).  If possible, don’t even open the menu when you get there.  Just order what you decided on.  On occasion, I will find that the item I picked is no longer available but for the most part I find it to be very effective!

  5. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. Even as much as we want to enjoy our meals to the fullest of pleasures, we also must consider the health implications and this is what you have explicitly explained in your article. I know this will help a lot if it her people. Thanks a lot

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comments!  Making changes in our diets is hard but considering all we know about food additives and their effects on our health, it crucial that we do what we can.  And, please, continue to enjoy your meals to the fullest.  There’s lots of healthy stuff out there that tastes great!  

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