Trying to find a healthy dish at a restaurant can seem like a daunting task because the menu itself seems to be never-ending with options that are more mouth-watering than the next. HOLD STRONG. You can do this – Healthy options exist and I’m here to help you navigate the menu the next time that you’re out to eat.
Sometimes it can be intimidating when trying to sift through a menu. You don’t want to be a burden to the person or the people that you’re dining with and you don’t want to leave the restaurant starving only to go home and eat everything that you can get your hands on.
Though you might not want to hear it, going out to eat and sticking to your guns takes a little preparation but it’s worth it when you leave the restaurant feeling full, not guilty.
So, whether it’s a mom and pop restaurant or a well-known chain, you can find healthy alternatives that are still tasty and don’t derail your transformation efforts.
Be a rebel
This doesn’t mean that you have to have an attitude when ordering; it simply means that you can’t be meek. Menu items aren’t set in stone. Just because it’s printed in black and white doesn’t mean that it’s the end-all-be-all. To this point, you have to be assertive when requesting a menu change. If an offering comes with French fries, ask for a veggie or side salad. If it comes fried, ask for it grilled. If it’s a huge portion and you’re there for dinner, ask for the lunch portion. Go into a restaurant with the mindset that you can customize your dish. In most cases, the restaurant will cooperate. Case and point, be a rebel, go against the grain and order the meal that you want to eat!
Order two appetizers
Yes, you read that right. I’m telling you to order two appetizers. This doesn’t mean that you can buy two rounds of nachos grande. This does however, mean that if there’s a nice seafood or vegetable-based appetizer that you can double up on these offerings. If you do in fact order two appetizers, skip out on the entrée. Order these appetizers and have them come to the table when the others that you are dining with get their main meals. In most cases, a double order of an appetizer will leave you satiated and not overly full.
Make a healthy salad
What was once seen as a healthy option has now been lardo-nized (I just made that word up – let’s go with it). Here’s what I mean, when I say this. I’m from Pittsburgh and we have something that’s known as a Pittsburgh salad – This is a salad that has cheese, French fries and more times than not, ranch dressing all over a bed of iceburg lettuce. In short, you’re probably better off getting a hamburger. Other restaurants (cough, cough – Cheesecake Factory) have “salads” on their menu that are essentially calorie bombs. Here’s how to navigate the salad portion of the menu like a mine field. Avoid creamy sauces and if you can’t part ways with ranch dressing, ask for it on the side and dip, not dunk your fork pre-bite into the dressing. Here are some tips on how to make your salad a little bit healthy. Ask for a light sprinkle of cheese on your salad, get your bacon bits on the side, opt for grilled chicken instead of breaded chicken, say no to crunchy toppings like tortilla chips, wonton crisps and Pittsburghers, this means no fries. Salads are meant to be healthy – keep it that way.
Do your research
For me, I love planning ahead and perusing through the menu before I even step foot in the establishment. In this day and age, it’s a common occurrence for restaurants to put their menu and calorie counts on their website. Red Robin has a calorie counter and Ruby Tuesday has a Smart Eating menu. These are chains but, non-chain restaurants also have their fare on their website so give it a read and see which menu item reaps the biggest health benefits. Be sure to do your homework and you’ll be happy that you did.
Bye, bye bread
You know what I’m getting at. I’m about to tell you to skip the coveted, warm and delicious bread basket. Before your waiter even gets the word “bread” across his or her lips, politely decline. It sucks, don’t get me wrong. I’m Italian. I love carbs and more specifically, I love bread. If you’ve conquered the bread basket, like I mentioned before order seafood or vegetable-based appetizers to munch on before your dinner to curb your cravings and appetite.
Here are five tips that I hope will help you navigate a restaurant’s menu with ease and without anxiety. What do you do to make sure that you’re eating healthy when dining out? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear!