I get this question a lot, especially from my health coaching clients. What are the best foods and tips for eating healthy at unhealthy restaurants? It’s a good question because often times, people think they are opting for the healthier option, when really the selection is not as healthy as it seems.
It’s inevitable that sometimes you may dine at a restaurant that serves more unhealthy options than anything else. I’d like to think I will never enter a restaurant that contains mostly unhealthy food on the menu but that’s just not sustainable. There’s always that friends birthday dinner, a work lunch, family outings, sometimes it’s just unavoidable. So I have listed a few tips that have been helpful to me over the years and can help you stay on track when you have to dine at places that are out of your control.
Number 1.Don’t order fried food. This may be a no brainer, but even the nicest of restaurants can dress up a fried dish and make it sound healthy. Fried food just is healthy, period. Stick with grilled, baked, blackened, roasted, seared, or steamed food.
Number 2.Examine the toppings on a salad. Just because it’s a salad, doesn’t mean it’s the healthy way to go. Restaurants tend to add unhealthy toppings to salad to make them look more appealing. Lots of cheeses, fried toppings, candied fruits & nuts are going to add a lot on unnecessary calories, fats, & sugars that aren’t needed. Stick to veggies & unfried proteins.
Number 3.Stay away from soups & pasta sauces. Unless you know for a fact that the soup or pasta sauce is made completely from scratch, in-house, don’t order it. Pre-made soups and pasta sauces have a lot of added salt, sugar, and chemicals to preserve the self life. This will cause you to bloat like no other.
Number 4.If ordering a salad, stick to oil & vinegar. Most restaurant salad dressings contain a ton of sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. If you don’t prefer oil and vinegar and the salad dressing is homemade, then choose a homemade dressing that is oil based and not mayonnaise based. Or you can bring your own dressing, no judgement here!
Number 5.Most restaurants cook their food in way too much oil or butter. There is nothing wrong with either of these if the chef is using high quality oils however, most restaurants skip the high quality oil. So ask your server for no oil or light oil/butter.
Number 6.Check out the online menu before you go. I do this at every restaurant I go to, especially if I’ve never been before. This helps to strategically think about the healthiest options possible so you are prepared when you get there.