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.
- 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.
- 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,