March 21

Salad Isn’t the Only Diet-Friendly Dish on the Menu: 5 Tips for Making Informed Dietary Choices When Eating Out


by Julie Baker

No one said that following a healthy and nutritious diet would be easy, but it is made especially difficult when eating out. Restaurants are all about indulgences, meaning portions are enormous, sodium content is high, and calorie counts are often astronomical. Thankfully, none of that means you must avoid eating out; it only means you need to be more selective about your meal choices, but for the love of all that is good, avoid the salad. 

While salad is a solid option for healthy eating — most of the time — it is boring. After all, how much iceberg lettuce and mixed greens can one person really enjoy? 

Allow yourself to be adventurous when you eat out, but also selective. Every menu provides insights into the nutritional value of each meal, even if it doesn’t directly state the nutritional information. Knowing the ingredients and phrases to watch out for can help you make the best decisions for your diet and health while still enjoying a night on the town.

1. Pay Attention to the Descriptions

Restaurants are not in the habit of hiding cooking methods or ingredients from customers. All restaurant owners want clients to make informed decisions. That said, there are a few words to watch out for in every menu, including: 

  • Breaded 
  • Pan-fried 
  • Crispy 
  • Scalloped 
  • Dipped 
  • Alfredo 
  • Cream 

Menu items that include the above words in their descriptions are essentially code for high fat and sodium content. The terms you want to see in descriptions include: 

  • Baked 
  • Grilled 
  • Steamed 
  • Braised 
  • Broiled 
  • Seared 
  • Roasted 

2. Eat a Variety of Meat

Most dieters fear meat on restaurant menus, but not all meat is bad. All meats provide a ton of protein, and lean cuts are healthy options. Even red meat is an OK option if it is a leaner cut, such as sirloin, skirt steak, tenderloin, filet mignon, or flank steak. However, when in doubt, stick to poultry, specifically chicken breast. Eating meat is a good option because it provides a fuller, more satisfying feeling than empty carbs.

3. Order Fish

As long as it is not fried, fish is an excellent dietary choice. While there are several ways to cook fish, including broiled, blackened, steamed, baked, and sauteed, there is nothing better than a simple piece of grilled fish. Like meat, fish promotes feelings of fullness and avoids many of the problems of carbs, including unhealthy fats. Additionally, if you choose a fatty fish, like salmon, you get the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Pile on the Vegetables

Vegetables contribute a significant number of vitamins and helpful nutrients to a healthy diet, which is why they should be a part of every meal. When ordering at a restaurant, do not be afraid to ask for extra veggies with your main course. In many situations, you won’t even be charged for the extra. However, make sure you request that your vegetables not be cooked in butter.

5. Drink Plenty of Water

While many people do not like to drink a lot of water, it is vital to a healthy lifestyle and diet. If you are trying to live healthier, water should become your primary beverage. Do not gulp it down at meals; instead, drink it slowly and in between bites. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that drinking water before, during, and after a meal helps reduce the number of calories consumed in a day. 

Dieting does not mean an end to going out to restaurants; it only means reassessing your choices when eating out. Remember, you are always in control. 


Food, Health, Healthy, Salad

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  1. Over the years (I am 83), without being obsessive, I have tried to become enlightened about what I eat and how it is pre-paired. Admittedly, I have been ignorant and overindulgent during certain periods in my life, resolving to do better during happier times. Now, with 'medical issues and prescriptions' I am WAY overweight, all the while eating less and NO sugar (do not misconstrue with occasional binging as in a Christmas gift of chocolate-type candy, which I consumed!). I am about 5'2' and weigh 171 pounds. At other times in my life, in my 40's and 50's my weight would be between 138 and 148. At my age, one could safely say, "Why worry?" But I worry! I am happily married, the mother of 6, grandmother of 9, and great grandmother of 10. My memory is slightly, at this time, failing me, my lungs are compromised with repeated pneumonia and my heart is not perfect, but currently operating on its own. Beside constant medication for my (lungs breathing medication 3 times a day and NO, it is not COPD), I have never smoked, high blood pressure and a tendency to retain water and a shaky gait, I am Ok. So, what do I want? I want to lose weight and keep it off! Can you help me?

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