How to Find Healthy Food on Any Menu

how to eat healthy at any restaurant

Going out to dinner when trying to eat healthier can be nerve-racking, but don’t let your anxiety or meal derail the amazing progress you’re making. First things first, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re unclear about what a dish contains, your server can answer your questions. Depending on where you go, you have the freedom to make adjustments to your meal. For example, you can hold the mayonnaise on your wrap or have the chicken grilled instead of fried. Does your meal come with French fries? Politely ask if you could swap it for some steamed broccoli or a side salad. Here’s how you can find a healthy option on every menu:

Say yes to…

If you see these words on the menu, you’re in the clear:

  • Steamed
  • Grilled
  • Baked
  • Fresh
  • Boiled
  • Broiled
  • Vinaigrette

Watch out for these words:

These are red flags that you’re about to ingest a high-calorie meal:

  • Crispy
  • Pan-fried
  • Crusted
  • Breaded
  • Alfredo
  • Bottomless
  • Stuffed
  • Buttery
  • Sauteed
  • Country-style
  • Creamy
  • Loaded
  • Au Gratin

Sneaky salads…

Watching your weight? You may find your eyes darting directly to the salad portion of the menu because salads are healthy, right? Well, not all the time. Some salads are more fattening than a burger. If you genuinely like salads, we say go for it. But if you’re ordering a salad because it’s a lighter option, you’re better off ordering two vegetable-based appetizers and calling that a meal. Want to make your salads healthier? Steer clear of any that contain words from the previous section. That’s right, no crispy noodles or crusted chicken on your salad. Watch out for calorie bombs such as Italian antipasto (hello, saturated fat from deli meat) or Caesar salad. Can’t bear to give up your favorite salad. Ask for dressing on the side and try dipping your fork into the dressing before picking up a bite. This saves a ton of calories and allows you to take leftovers home without the salad wilting under the weight of the dressing.

Be picky about your protein

Protein is an essential part of your diet, even if you’re a vegan or paleo. If you’re a meat eater, here’s what you should consider when choosing your proteins.

Land or sea: Seafood is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and is very high in protein. Many popular fish, including salmon, tuna, and shrimp contain less than 5 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. If you’re feeling more like turf instead of surf, you also have a variety of options including lamb, veal, beef, pork, turkey, and chicken.

Red or white: No, we’re not talking about wine. If you’re watching your figure, we recommend going for white meat because it contains less fat and cholesterol than its red cousin. Also, choose breast meat over thighs or wings when possible. Still craving a steak? Know your cuts. Choose a filet mignon over fatty prime rib.

Fail to plan and plan to fail

This is one of our favorite tips: Check the menu before you go. Most chain restaurants, and even local restaurants, post their menus online. Some even share the nutrition of each menu item. This allows you to figure out what you’re going to order before you even walk in the door. If you can’t find anything delicious (that won’t sabotage your hard work in the kitchen), then you’re better off looking elsewhere. Not on a diet? This is an especially good tip for people who struggle to pick a menu item. You have the whole day to think about it!

Another great tip is to ask for a box before you start eating. Many restaurants serve huge portions that could serve at least 2 or 3 people. Box up half your meal from the get-go instead of picking at it long after you’ve stopped feeling hungry. This way you’ll have a meal for tomorrow all ready to go just by practicing portion control.

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