Need a few tips and tricks to help you order healthier options when eating out? Date nights and meals out don’t have to sabotage your healthy lifestyle.
True. Cooking at home is usually much healthier than eating out at a restaurant. Your portions will likely be smaller, and the quality of the ingredients is known.
When we go to a restaurant, we rarely know if the meat is organic, pastured, or hormone and antibiotic-free. We can assume that the vegetables, grains, dairy, and fruits are conventional and not organic…because that is cheaper. And the likelihood of fresh, locally sourced, ingredients is slim. The oils that are used are probably rich in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids making for an inflammatory meal.
That being said, eating out at a restaurant is FUN! And sometimes it is just easier. You may not feel like cooking and doing the dishes. A busy work day may have kept you from the grocery store. And frankly, sometimes it is just cheaper. Your honey can get a hamburger, you can get a salad, and the kids can get macaroni and chicken fingers. Right?
Whether you end up at a four-star steakhouse, or the local diner, here are my top 10 healthy restaurant tips:
- Skip the bread basket or chips. Your meal will have sufficient calories and you don’t need these nutrient-void fillers. Ask for a side salad if you need an appetizer to hold you over.
- Hold the cheese. A dairy-free diet is beneficial for almost everyone, reducing inflammation, allergies, and digestive distress.
- Skip inflammatory fried foods like chicken tenders, chips, donuts, egg rolls, beignets, french fries, tater tots. Obvi.
- Stick with water. Whether sparking or still, water is the beverage of choice for health. Ask for a lime or lemon to liven it up. (Unsweetened ice tea is okay too, but be aware of the caffeine if drinking after noon.)
- Order it lettuce-wrapped. Order your burger or sandwich “lettuce-wrapped” to avoid gluten and empty calories in the bread/bun.
- No rice, double vegetables. Order your entree without the starch (potatoes, rice, bread, pasta) and ask for double vegetables instead to boost nutrition.
- Dressing on the side. Opt for olive oil and lemon juice, or a vinaigrette, instead of creamy dressings. Most restaurants overdress a salad, so ask for your dressing on the side.
- Choose the fish. Especially a wild-caught, cold-water, fatty fish like salmon that is rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.
- Go Paleo or Vegan (or at least gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined flour free.) Try to find a dish that is protein and vegetables, maybe with a little whole grain like rice or quinoa.
- Share an entree. If you are with a friend or your honey, share an entree and an appetizer. Controlling portion sizes is key.
As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I left that off the list. But suffice to say, alcohol screws up blood sugar levels and is just empty calories; not that much different, metabolically, than soda. If you do drink, opt for antioxidant-rich red wine, stick with one glass, and make sure you are not driving. Uber, baby.
Have fun with it! Make a point of discovering local restaurants that are committed to sustainably-sourced, organic, local foods…or at least healthy options. Japanese cuisine is always a healthy option, in a pinch (skip the tempura).
Some of my favorite SoCal healthy spots:
- Vibe Organic Kitchen (Newport Beach)
- Seabirds Kitchen (Costa Mesa)
- True Food Kitchen (Multiple Locations)
- Your favorite sushi spot
- Temakira (Costa Mesa)
- Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop (Multiple Locations)
- Active Culture (Laguna Beach)
- Mother’s Market (Multiple Locations)
- Cafe Gratitude (Multiple Locations)
- East Borough (Multiple Locations)
- Bear Flag Fish Company (Multiple Locations)
- Nektar Juice Bar (Multiple Locations)
- Sejuiced Superfood Juice Bar (Corona del Mar)
- Pressed Juicery (for their frozen treats, most juice is too sugary)
- Outpost Kitchen (Costa Mesa)
- Kit Coffee (Newport Beach)
- Haute Cakes Caffee (Newport Beach)
- Plant Food and Wine (Venice Beach)
- Otium (Downtown LA)
What are your favorite restaurants and healthy, eating out options? Please share!