Easy tips for eating healthier at restaurants

Since we eat so many of our meals out of the house, learning to outsmart restaurant menus is key to managing a healthy diet. Here are some tips for ordering from various menus.

Easy tips for eating healthier at restaurants

1. Order plenty of vegetables at Chinese restaurants

  • Ask for brown rice and don't eat the whole bowl. Spoon a half cup onto your plate and leave the rest. White rice is a danger to blood sugar levels.
  • Start your meal with wonton, egg drop or hot-and-sour soup. Avoid soups with coconut milk.
  • Order entrées from the "health" menu. You'll find steamed chicken and vegetables with sauce on the side and similar low-fat choices
  • Ask for stir-fries to be prepared with less oil and more veggies, with the sauce on the side.
  • Order plenty of vegetables. Ask for them steamed or sautéed.
  • Take advantage of the bean curd (tofu). Include a heart-healthy, low-GL dish like bean curd with sautéed Chinese mixed vegetables.
  • Ask for sautéed bean curd, not deep-fried.
  • Plan to take home leftovers. Think of about a cup of a dish (without rice) as a serving.

2. Skip the bread and cream at Italian restaurants

  • Avoid the bread-basket. Instead, order minestrone or another broth-based soup.
  • Order pasta from the appetizer section of the menu, or share.
  • Opt for pasta sauces based on tomatoes (marinara), vegetables, white wine and garlic — not cream.
  • Order simple grilled beef, veal, pork, chicken, fish or shellfish. Add a side order of sautéed spinach or broccoli rabe, a slightly bitter Italian version of broccoli.
  • Finish with a mixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing.
  • For dessert, ask for fresh berries or fruit ice, or a small plate of cookies to share.

3. Go simple at Mexican restaurants

  • Say no to chips with salsa or nacho chips covered with cheese.
  • Order a healthy starter. Look for ceviche, guacamole, spicy gazpacho, black bean soup and tortilla soup.
  • Ask for soft tortillas instead of deep-fried chips, and don't overeat them.
  • For an entrée, order fajitas. These are made with lean beef, chicken or shrimp grilled with onions and peppers.
  • Other good choices are grilled chicken or fish dishes.
  • As a side dish, go for rice and beans instead of Mexican rice.

4. Take advabtage of new menu items at fast food restaurants

  • Restaurants now offer a greater selection of healthier fare.
  • Keep the fat and calorie damage down by ordering grilled sandwiches, salads and even vegetarian burgers, chili and low-fat dairy desserts.
  • Order the smallest hamburger.
  • Skip the soft drink and ask for water — or orange juice, hot tea, coffee or low-fat milk — instead.
  • Take advantage of the salads. Skip the cheese, bacon bits and other add-ons. Ask for vinaigrette dressing.

While fun and easy, eating out can prove a challenge for the health-conscious. But it doesn't have to. Stick to healthier choices and reasonable portion sizes. In doing so, you can enjoy a meal out and not have to worry about your health.

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