Let’s face it. For many of us, eating out at a restaurant is a wonderful experience. Sharing food with friends and family or simply sitting out at a café with a book and a delicious meal can bring a true sense of joy.
But dining out can have its downfalls—excessive calories, sugar, and simply not knowing how your food is prepared can be a bummer for those of us looking to eat healthier.
So what can you do to eat better when eating out? One place you can start is by making simple swaps when ordering. Here are some suggestions and manageable adjustments that you can make to make dining out a healthier experience:
1. Skip the breadbasket.
Some restaurants place a delicious basket of artisan breads and savory crackers along with butter or seasoned oil. To avoid feeling tempted, ask the waiter or waitress to withhold the breadbasket before you sit down. Or, if you must have bread with your meal, request that they only provide one roll per person. Your body will thank you later.
2. Have a smart sandwich.
Sandwich lover? Try swapping white bread and croissants with whole-grain pita bread or whole-grain rolls. Better yet, replace the bread or bun or your sandwich or burger with lettuce (some places call this “protein-style”). Ask the waiter to hold the mayonnaise and replace with mustard, low fat sour cream, or guacamole—which all add a creamy feel like mayo but without the possibly rancid seed oils. Make your sandwich heart-healthy by adding sprouts, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, black olives, avocados, and onions. To increase your omega-3 intake, choose wild salmon as the main meat. Choose the grilled or baked chicken sandwich, a regular hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, or a veggie burger instead of a fried chicken sandwich or a jumbo cheeseburger.
3. Free yourself from French fries.
French fries can be tempting as a side, but an organic baked potato with extra vegetables and/or low-fat sour cream, brown rice, and steamed vegetables are healthier food options. French fries are often made from non-organic russet potatoes, which come doused in toxic pesticides—even more reason to avoid! If you are craving French fries, try sweet potato fries, which contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
4. Cut the coleslaw.
Sautéed vegetables, steamed vegetables, and a tossed salad are better options than creamy coleslaw.
5. Choose a smart soup.
If you enjoy soup, avoid cream-based soups. Instead, go for broth-based soups with lots of veggies. You’ll be getting your serving of vegetables, which are packed with phytonutrients and fiber. A veggie-filled broth-based soup with a salad on the side is both filling, warming, and nutritious in winter, or try chilled Gazpacho for a summer soup! Win, win!
6. Cut cream.
If you are in the mood for pasta, replace the cream-based sauces with olive oil (like a yummy pesto sauce), or tomato sauce pastas. And remember: some pasta servings in restaurants can be ginormous––two or three or even four times an actual “serving.” Request a half order of whole-grain pasta instead and grated cheese on the side or ask the server to split your meal and take half to go.
7. Finish strong and sweet!
When satisfying your sweet tooth, choose desserts wisely. Fresh fruit, sherbet, sorbet, gelatin, and angel food cake are good alternatives to more traditional fat- and cream-laden desserts like ice cream, cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate lava cake, or a brownie sundae.
It’s important to remember that eating out is a treat. Our philosophy is that a well-balanced, holistic nutrition diet involves home cooking rich with organic veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. However, when you do decide to eat out, I hope you’ll make the best of it with these simple swaps!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am on the ACHS Faculty and a guest blogger for American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.