Cooking at home has a range of healthy benefits— mainly because you have total control over the quality and quantity of your ingredients. Even if a restaurant uses high quality ingredients or organic items, you never really know how much butter, oil, salt or sugar they add to each dish. Restaurants are also focused on making very tasty and delicious dishes, not on making everything super healthy.
While we wish we could home-cook all of our meals or dine at only the most health-conscious of restaurants, we know eating out is inevitable. Life gets busy, you’re on vacation, out for a special occasion, etc., and before you know it, you’re face-to-face with a giant menu of tempting options. It can be confusing to navigate the tricky restaurant lingo and find items that keep you on a healthy path. So before you Uber Eats that next meal or head out for date-night, check out the following tips to keep your restaurant orders on the healthier side.
- Don’t forget the veggies! Even if you order an entree of chicken, meat or fish, make sure your sides include plenty of veggies. Don’t be afraid to ask for double the veggies and no potatoes, or include an extra side salad to accompany your dish.
- “Creamy” dishes = lots of butter and cream, aka lots of not good fat. Other items to stay away from may be described as smothered, stuffed, loaded, cheesy, creamy, gooey or rich. These dishes will be extremely high in calories due to their butter, cream or cheese content.
- Look for items described as grilled, baked, roasted, and steamed. Descriptions like crunchy, crispy, battered, breaded, crusted or tempura are often code for fried. Fried foods are significantly higher in calories and trans fat. For example, according to Healthline, one small baked potato (100 grams) contains 93 calories and 0 grams of fat, while the same amount (100 grams) of french fries contain 319 calories and 17 grams of fat.
- Sauces and dressings tend to have a lot of hidden sugar and/or salt. Opt for a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing, or ask for dressings and sauces on the side so you have more control over how much you eat.
- Put your food on a plate! If you eat straight from the take-out containers you’ll have a harder time controlling portions. Use a small plate, keep it balanced and put the rest in the fridge. If you’re eating at a restaurant, ask for half the entree now and half in a to-go container. Now you also have leftovers!
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the dish is made or what ingredients are used. Don’t be shy about requesting substitutions or alternate items. And remember, it’s about making the best choices you can, NOT about being perfect!
Pictured from one of my go-to Mediterranean restaurants: veggie tagine (mixed veggies in a spicy tomato sauce), extra side of roasted veggies (I ordered those instead of the fried potatoes), rice, and baba ganoush (eggplant dip).
–Emily Koches, LulaFit