Healthy Choices When Eating Out

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Is it hard to eat out and still eat healthy?  That used to be the case, but many restaurants are offering more menu choices and accommodate many preferences.  Most restaurants offer Gluten Free (gf) or vegan (v) choices, or can easily prepare menu items to accommodate those preferences.  Making a healthy choice, however, depends on us making the decision on what we are going to order to meet our health goals.

So what makes something a healthy choice?  Well, that really depends on our personal health goals.   Some of us request changes to a menu item to accommodate a food intolerance or sensitivity, which makes us healthier and prevents inflammation.  Others are trying to reduce their calorie intake, so avoiding certain foods meets our goal.  Whatever our goal, by following some simple rules, we can eat out and eat healthy.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when we want to request a few changes for our menu choice:

  1. Avoid the breaded and fried items. While these are alright once in a while, they are not the healthiest choice and add many extra calories without adding nutritional value.
  2. Request a vegetable instead of potato or rice. While white potatoes and rice do have some nutritional benefit, they are nothing compared to broccoli, asparagus or even a sweet potato.  The carbohydrate content of a white potato or rice make it a less healthy choice, especially toward the end of the day, because it is difficult to burn off those carbohydrates the later we eat them.  The abundance of nutrients from a vegetable choice far surpasses a potato or rice.
  3. Ask for a side salad instead of soup. Now not all soups are bad.  Broth based soups like French Onion or Vegetable, are a healthier choice than cream based soups, but the sodium content of soups is usually very high.  Salad offers us leafy greens (the nutrition power-house) as well as other vegetables, giving us a lower calorie option packed with nutrients.  Make a healthier choice with the salad dressing by asking for a vinaigrette or simply olive oil and red wine vinegar, a staple in most restaurants.
  4. Choose the smaller portion if two sizes are offered. Restaurants often send large portions, especially for dinner meals, and it is more than we need to eat.  If a smaller portion is not offered, request a take home container when ordering, and put half of the entrée into it when the meal is served.  When the extra food is not right in front of us, we won’t eat it.
  5. Request a fruit based dessert if you choose to have dessert. A dish of fruit is the best choice, even with a dollop of whipped cream.  But even fruit based desserts will offer more nutritional value than custard or cream based desserts.

By making these simple changes the next time we eat out, we will save calories and boost our nutritional intake for the meal.  Let’s try it and see if we don’t feel better on our way home!

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