5 Tips for Healthy Choices at Restaurants

How do you make healthy choices at restaurants?   As much as we all would like to be able to cook each meal from scratch in our own kitchen from organic ingredients every day, it is not always feasible in our fast-paced culture.  And if you are like me, getting out of the house for a meal that I don't have to cook is actually something I look forward to sometimes!

Now, just so you know, I personally do not go to fast food restaurants.  I have heard that they offer healthier options nowadays, which is a step in the right direction.  When I am out, I will choose a place like Chipotle, which serves organic, healthy fast food, but as far as normal fast food fare, I avoid it at all costs because the healthy options are so limited.  The restaurants I am referring to in this article are full-service restaurants. 

Some people may limit social events because of their dietary rules, which can isolate them from their friends.  Your diet is not your identity.  Don’t get too hung up on dogma or rules.  Eating out is about making the best food choices you can under the circumstances.  Your diet should not negatively impact your social life.  If it is, then you need to rethink your situation.  Life is more than food.  Make the best food choices you can and remember that it is what you do 90% of the time that is important

When you go to a restaurant, you do not have to bring your own food.  That can be uncomfortable for the restaurant staff as well as the people you are dining with.  Aside from some fast food restaurants, nearly every restaurant has real food choices that you can choose from.  Try to adapt to wherever you are and do not make your friends uncomfortable.  There are usually some things you can eat. 

Here are some guidelines that will enable you to enjoy eating out without worries.

  • Tip #1 is:  Avoid the bread and most appetizers.  Do not eat the bread that is served as an appetizer because it is usually made with enriched white flour.  Most appetizers are not healthy options.  Depending on the type of restaurant, the safest bet is to skip the appetizer and just start with a salad.  If you are starving, you can munch on some the nuts you have stashed away in your car before going in the restaurant.  This will take the edge off your hunger. 
  • Tip #2:  Keep it simple.  For the main meal, keep it simple and order grilled meat or fish and 1 or 2 vegetable side dishes.  Or have an entrée salad without the cheese and croutons.  Or you could order several of the vegetable side dishes.   At a Mexican restaurant, you could order fajitas and put the meat, grilled peppers and onions on a bed of lettuce, and top it with salsa, beans, and guacamole, leaving off the tortillas and cheese.  It is basically a fajita salad, and is so delicious you will not even miss the tortillas. 
  • Tip #3:  Avoid all sauces, gravies, and soups. They are usually loaded with MSG and can contain other problematic ingredients, such as enriched white flour or too much salt.   Salad dressings can also be a source of unhealthy fats and MSG.  Pick a vinaigrette made with olive oil or ask for vinegar and olive oil instead. 
  • Tip # 4: Avoid fried food.  Stay away from anything breaded and fried, no matter what it is.  Fried foods are very hard to digest and are loaded with harmful fats. 
  • Tip # 5:  Watch the portion sizes!  The size of steak and other meat at most restaurants is much more than you need to eat in one meal.  And the normal portions of vegetables they provide is way too small.  Your meal will be much easier to digest and better for your health if you eat a smaller portion of meat with lots of vegetables.  That means you may need to order extra vegetable sides or a salad, and bring any extra food home for another meal. 

Do you have any helpful tips you could add to this list?

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Becky Mauldin, N.D. is a Naturopath, teacher, speaker, and author.  She has authored two gluten-free cookbooks, Vibrant Health and Recipes for Life. Her story of recovery from an incurable illness has inspired many people around the world. She is known for making a healthy diet achievable for real people and real life.

Connect with her on Facebook and let her know what you think of this post. 

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