How to Eat Healthy in Restaurants

By Chrissy MacDonald

A night off from cooking can be a nice break. Eating out in restaurants is no reason to sacrifice healthy eating. I’m a very particular eater and when I have the opportunity to order a meal, I make sure it’s what I want. Here are a few tips for ordering a healthy restaurant meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to the standard selections on the menu. You’re paying for the meal so you should get what you want. Of course there are exceptions to this. We went to a restaurant a few years ago that had cheese burgers on the menu. One of the kids wanted a plain hamburger without the cheese. The waitress said they didn’t have plain hamburgers. It had to come with cheese. Of course this was a crazy exception. Most are happy to accommodate personal choices.

Ask how the food is prepared. Avoid animal cooking fats. Most restaurants use vegetable oil now.

Drink lots of water. Have a glass before the meal to take the edge off your hunger.

Have your salad dressing on the side (they usually pour on too much). Choose romaine lettuce and green and red peppers which are more nutritious than head lettuce and celery.

Many entrees are too large. You could order a salad and main course and share it with a friend instead of ordering both for each of you. Or put a portion of the food on a bread plate and ask the waiter to doggy bag it. Do this at the beginning of the meal so you won’t be tempted to pick at it at the end of your meal.

Ask for tomato based sauce for pasta rather than cream based.

At the buffet table, try just a small scoop of each item if you like a variety of different foods.  Watch out for salad toppings. Bacon bits, croutons, salad dressings and cheese can make salads very high in fat and calories.

Use only a thin spread of butter on bread or dip the bread in olive oil which is a healthier fat.

Don’t be taken in by “mega sizing” for a few cents more. Think of all those extra calories you don’t really need.

At fast food sandwich restaurants, try whole wheat tortilla “wraps” with a variety of vegetables and just a bit of meat or cheese. Heat it up to bring out the flavor.

Don’t be “on a diet.” Enjoy the foods you love but learn to modify and substitute or just have a smaller portion with a big salad. You will enjoy the food more because you’re doing your body a big favor and you won’t be overstuffed when you’re finished. Notice how much better you feel physically after eating a modified meal. You’ll feel like going for a nice walk instead of lying down!