This is my simple 3 step process for making healthy food choices at a restaurant. If you have food allergies or are working towards living a healthier lifestyle, try these tips!
It's a lot simpler to eat healthy at home where we can control everything. I love trying new dishes and eating out at restaurants with friends, but I don't love feeling sick after.
I developed this simple method to make healthy food choices at restaurants so I can eat out when I want (usually 2-3 meals a week) and still feel great.
How to prepare:
Before going to a restaurant, I do a few things to prepare and ensure they can offer allergen-free and healthy options.
- Check the menu online in advance to have an idea of options
- Call or email the restaurant if you can't find enough information online
- Check Reviews -- try Yelp, Google, or Open Table -- and search for key words like "gluten" or "vegan" depending on your allergies or preferences
- I like to take these digestive enzymes before my meal to support my digestion
My 3 Step Process:
If you have food allergies or preferences, identify those options.
I personally find dishes that can be made gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, corn-free, and plant-based. Some restaurants label the menu, otherwise ask your server or the chef.
Don't forget to ask what oils they use! If you have allergies, ask about cross-contamination (shared friers, shared equipment, etc) and request that they use clean equipment.
Look for dishes that have the most veggies.
Hint: it doesn't always need to be salad! It can be a soup, bowl, plate, pizza, curry... if half or more of the dish is plants, it's a top choice for me.
What else should you look for? Healthy grains like quinoa or brown rice, proteins like lentils, chickpeas, or mung beans, and healthy fats like avocado or chia seeds. Sometimes I ask them to add extra veggies to dishes for more nutrients.
Pick what you're in the mood to eat from those top choices.
Now that you've narrowed it down to your choice, is there anything overly processed that you can remove or substitute? I like to avoid/limit processed sugar, oils, fried items, and salt.
Easy fixes: dressing/sauces on the side so you can control the amount, ask for steamed or no oil if possible, substitute fried items for baked (like a baked sweet potato instead of fries).
Healthy Restaurant FAQs:
Sometimes it happens! If that's the case, I create my own dish from sides. I'll usually get 3-4 sides:
1. Greens/Veggies - broccoli, side salad, mushrooms, spinach. I'll ask even if it's not explicitly on the menu.
2. Starch - sweet potatoes are my favorite, or I'll look for a rice or quinoa option.
3. Protein - beans, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, nuts, seeds, peas. If they don't have any options, I'll get an extra side of veggies or starches.⠀⠀⠀⠀
I could write a whole blog post on this! With my best efforts, I still get glutened 1-3x yearly. I can tell immediately -- I usually taste it, then my stomach starts feeling really sick and I get itchy.
If you get glutened, stop eating and start drinking a lot of water. Typically I leave the restaurant immediately to get home before my reaction gets bad.
I take a digestive enzyme and a probiotic. You can also try activated charcoal. I try to go easy on myself for the next week with soups, salads, and coconut water.
There are healthy options you can find for most cuisines, but my favorites are typically Thai, Vietnamese, New American, Ethiopian, and Italian. Many Mexican restaurants also have healthy options (if you don't have a corn allergy).
Restaurant-Worthy Meals At Home:
- Easy Vegan Truffle Fettuccine Alfredo
- Baked Cauliflower Rice Balls (Arancini)
- Vegan Teriyaki Mushroom Steak
How do you pick the healthiest options at a restaurant? Let me know your favorite restaurants for healthy options in your city! Xx