How to eat Healthy at a Restaurant

Eating out can seem daunting when you are trying to eat healthy. It’s a big concern with my clients who are going through my Transform: Nutrition Bootcamp. What should I order? is a question I see constantly. I want this to be a guide to help you navigate what to eat when you are out of town or out on a date with your husband. You can make wise decisions when eating out and I want to show you how to read through the menu and choose the best options that are good for you.

We live in a society where eating out is not just for the special occasions anymore but rather “I didn’t feel like making my lunch so I will grab Subway” or “I don’t have time to cook tonight so I’ll go to the nearest fast food restaurant”. With the typical overbooked schedule eating out has just become something you do. So it’s important to know how to navigate a menu and learn how to make the best choices when trying to decide what to order at a restaurant.

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First Things First

When I think about a meal I am going to eat, I typically build my meals around a protein, carbohydrate, vegetable and healthy fat. Most of my meals have a protein {chicken breast, eggs, grass fed beef}, a carb {sweet potato, quinoa, apple}, a veggie {asparagus, broccoli, zucchini} and a healthy fat {avocado, almond butter, coconut oil}. If I’m going on a date that night,  I try and think about balancing out my meals and what I’ve already eaten that day {sometimes my meals become a little unbalanced}. This helps me make sure my meals/snacks throughout the day are healthy and helps me plan out what I’m going to eat for dinner out. So keep this in mind when planning out your meals or leading up to a trip out of town or date night.

Stalk the menu ahead of time: Whenever I go out to eat or I’m trying to find a restaurant, I stalk the menu to see if there is something that I want. Typically, this looks like a good hearty salad or salmon with yummy sides like sauteed veggies and sweet potatoes. I also like to prepare ahead of time. We don’t eat out much {maybe 4 times a month, but usually less} so sometimes when we go out to dinner it’s a fun meal and I splurge if they have gluten free fries {side note: just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy! It’s just nice to find a restaurant that has gluten free options.}. If I do decide to splurge I plan ahead...but that leads me to my next point.

To splurge or not to splurge: The reason it’s a good idea to look at the menu ahead of time is that you can plan ahead and you aren’t surprised by the food options. Then you can decide ahead of time if you want to splurge or not. Is there something amazing on the menu that you are dying to try but it’s not the healthiest? Go for it. BUT plan ahead and make sure your meals leading up AND after are healthy and on point. Stick to lots of veggies and protein. And after the splurge, get right back on track. No guilt. No binging. Just enjoy the meal and pick up where you left off.

Eat only celery the day of: Okay, totally kidding. That would be horrible. But no matter what you order it’s going to have added oils or something that you aren’t used to when you cook at home. So make sure the meals and snacks leading up to going out to eat are healthy.

Be wary of salad dressings: Dressings are what makes the salad unhealthy. I still remember when I would completely drench my salad in ranch dressing. And the real kicker -- I thought I was being healthy because I was still eating a salad. Totally cringing right now. Salad dressings have so many added sugars, oils, unhealthy fats, and are super processed. Always order it on the side. Choose vinaigrette or olive oil/balsamic when possible.

Fried food is not your friend: This probably goes without saying, but fried food isn’t healthy. I know, I wish it was because gah, it tastes so good! But as a rule, I would stay away from it and choose something that is grilled.

Soups aren’t as healthy as you think: Soup seems like a good idea but most soups at a restaurant have much more fat {not the good kind} and tons of added sodium. Not to mention most have sugar added to them. Stick to a side salad instead.

Substitute: Don’t be afraid to substitute. The waiter won’t hate you, promise. Unless you’re just being plain rude. Anyways, be kind and it will be just fine. Ask if there are other options to the side of fries that comes with your burger. Ask if they have lettuce buns instead. If the food has a sauce, ask if they can put it on the side. Whatever it is, have it your way. {Que Burger King theme song}.

Watch those portions: If you’re eating at Cheesecake Factory you should go ahead and just ask them to box half of the meal up before bringing it out. Have you seen their portions!? Be mindful when you’re eating out and stop when you are satisfied. Ask the waiter to bring a To-Go box out right away.

Eat slowly: This can seem like a no brainer but have you ever wondered why you eat 3 baskets of chips at a Mexican restaurant? You probably aren’t eating slowly and it just happens, right? Slow down. Enjoy your food. Enjoy the atmosphere. I love ordering an appetizer and then waiting to order my meal after we are done enjoying the appetizer. For one, we get to really enjoy the food and not worry about ordering. And two, sometimes I’m not as full so I order something lighter or I don’t eat as much as I would have if I had the app and my meal sitting in front of me.

Ditch the soda (yes, diet soda too): For some, this is going to be a hard one. And yes, this includes skipping the diet soda as well. And in reality, diet soda is full of chemicals and actually causes you to crave sugar even more. Stick with water and ask for lemon slices to add a little flavor.

Skip the bread: Can anyone really say “no” to the bread basket?! If it’s your downfall, ask the waiter to not bring it out. You won’t be tempted and will get used to not having it before your meal.

Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. If there is one thing to remember from this guide it’s to eat as healthy as you can leading up to going out for a meal, make a plan, enjoy your night out, and start fresh the next morning.

I would love to know your top tips when eating out: How do you stay on track with your nutrition goals when eating out? Comment below with ways that you stay healthy when eating out.

And if you want to learn how to properly fuel your body with whole foods, without going crazy join us for my next Transform: Nutrition Bootcamp. Where I will show you how living a healthy lifestyle can be easy, simple and delicious. Ditch the diets and learn how to create a healthy lifestyle that lasts. Next bootcamp starts soon, click HERE for more information!