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10 Tips On How To Order Healthy Food At Any Restaurant

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10 Tips On How To Order Healthy Food At Any Restaurant

Next time you go out to dinner, consider this: the average meal at large chain restaurants has 1,128 calories—more than half of what most people should eat in an entire day. As you can probably imagine, many meals are much worse than that. For example, the Chicken and Biscuits at Cheesecake Factory has 2,260 calories!

Perhaps if you grab a meal at your neighborhood diner you’ll be better off? Not so much. A JAMA Internal Medicine study found that the average meal at independent and small restaurants has 1,327 calories. These numbers don’t include drinks and appetizers either, which could add another 500–1000 calories.

Eating deceptively unhealthy foods at restaurants is one of the biggest reasons people struggle with their weight. But it doesn’t have to be. In this article, you’ll learn how to order healthy food at any restaurant.

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1. Prepare ahead of time.

Nearly all fast food restaurants and most chain restaurants post their nutrition facts information online now. Take 5 minutes to plot your meal strategy and you can save yourself 1,000 calories or more.

2. Start with a low calorie appetizer.

Appetizers can make or break your meal health-wise. Olive Garden’s Calamari with Parmesan-Peppercorn Sauce has a whopping 1190 calories, 84 grams of fat, and 2680 mg of sodium—more than an entire day’s worth! Stick with light appetizers like ahi tuna, shrimp (not fried), and vegetables.

3. Choose veggies for side dishes.

Side dishes are another hidden source of calories and fat. Stick with steamed vegetables whenever possible. Ask the waiter or waitress how the veggies are prepared. If they’re fried or cooked with butter, ask if you can get them steamed instead. Most restaurants will have no problem honoring this request.

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4. Order a salad with dressing on the side.

Salads seem like a healthy option, but the truth is most are loaded with an excessive amount of calories, salt and fat. The Chicken Caesar Salad at Outback Steakhouse has 907 calories and 60 grams of fat, for example. To find a healthier salad, order it without croutons or cheese, and ask for a vinaigrette dressing on the side.

5. Stick with red sauces.

Red sauces are usually healthier options than cream sauces. If you’re ordering pasta with your red sauce, ask if they have whole grain or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta, which makes your blood sugar spike and temporarily blocks your body’s ability to effectively burn fat.

6. Scope out healthy dishes on the menu.

The first thing you should do when you look at a menu is to check for “light” dishes. Many restaurants now offer options that are “reduced calorie,” “reduced guilt,” or “under 600 calories.”

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7. Choose water and unsweetened iced tea.

As mentioned, drinks can put a damper on an otherwise healthy meal. Soda, in particular, is nothing but empty calories with a lot of added sugar your body doesn’t need. Stick with water, tea, and coffee. And if you’re drinking booze, have a glass of wine or beer. Skip the fruity drinks, which are high in sugar and empty calories.

8. Pick healthy protein like chicken, turkey or fish.

When in doubt, order a dish with chicken, turkey, or fish. Chicken sandwiches at fast food restaurants (minus the sauce and cheese) are a safe bet. And grilled or broiled fish at most larger restaurants are usually healthier options.

9. Share with your friends.

There are going to be times when you indulge, and that’s perfectly fine. Use this simple strategy to reduce your calorie intake though: share a dish with your friends. This is especially useful if you love dessert. Some desserts at restaurants have more calories than your dinner (like the Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake at Cheesecake Factory, which has 1,680 calories). Split it between four people and you’ll avoid a lot of damage.

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10. Ask the server for a copy of the nutrition facts information.

This is such a simple way to order healthy food at restaurants but no one does it. When you get to the restaurant, ask the server or manager if they have a copy of the nutrition facts information for the menu. Even if they don’t, they will likely recommend a healthier dish for you. Don’t be afraid to ask.

As you can see, eating at restaurants can make or break your health goals. Put these tips into action today and you’ll start reaping the benefits immediately.

More by this author

Scott Christ

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Pure Food Company.

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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