Eating healthfully doesn’t mean you need to give up dining out or ordering takeout from your favorite restaurants. It simply means you need to be more mindful of what you’re ordering. Don’t worry…you can still enjoy an incredibly delicious meal no matter what your favorite cuisine is if you just follow a few simple tricks for eating healthy at restaurants.
So, what are these tricks? The next time you get a craving for your favorite restaurants’ cuisine, use these ordering hacks instead of your usual go-to dishes.
Friends coming over for a Netflix binge and pizza? The next time you order from pizza restaurants in your area, ask for a thin crust. Thin crusts mean you’re getting less calories from the doughy base. Top them with veggies and say ‘no’ to that extra cheese. As a matter of fact, you can ask them to put only half the cheese they would normally top it with and shave even more calories off.
Perhaps you’d prefer other Italian dishes at one of your favorite restaurants. Stay away from lasagna and choose the caprese salad, chicken cacciatore, or grilled options. Pasta can be a healthy option when you choose sauces that aren’t creamy and mind your portions. Things like pasta primavera will give you a nice dose of fresh veggies too!
In China, dishes are meant to be shared. But at Chinese restaurants in America, most people order one entrée per person. It boils down to way too many calories. Plus, if you like the fried stuff (like those Crab Rangoon, which don’t even exist in China), you’re turning what would be a mostly healthy meal into a calorie bomb. The good news is you can still enjoy Chinese, if you order wisely. Choose steamed dishes over fried ones or ones drenched in sugary sauces (like sweet and sour pork for example). Your best bets are sharing steamed dumplings and a steamed-style main dish along with brown (not fried!) rice.
But wait…isn’t Japanese food healthy? Yes, it certainly can be, but when you order from Japanese restaurants, some options give you more calories than you’re bargaining for. Even that house salad with the delicious miso dressing because there’s more dressing than you need. A seaweed salad is a better option. Other things to avoid at the Japanese restaurants in your area include tempura and rolls with spicy mayo. Choose miso soup and rolls filled with fresh fish for a healthier meal.
If you love the Mexican restaurants by you but need to eat healthy, there’s no reason to avoid them. Though you may want to skip the nachos (which aren’t even authentic Mexican food). The taco salad might seem like a safe choice too, but with that massive shell holding it all together, it’s not. Instead, order tacos in soft corn tortillas or chicken fajitas (ask for the soft corn tortillas for them too). Even a bean burrito made with whole beans and not refried is a healthy choice at Mexican restaurants.
One of the best things about Greek restaurants is that the dishes are so full of flavor yet so good for you, as long as you remember a few things. Falafel is amazing, but it’s fried so enjoy it sparingly. Baba ganoush and hummus with pita are much healthier and will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
With lemongrass and curry-flavored dishes, Thai restaurants might seem like a healthier choice than Chinese though that’s not always the case. Those tempting spring rolls that are fried to a crisp are like a siren song for the tongue. Instead, choose the summer rolls that are wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with fresh veggies and steamed shrimp. Everyone’s favorite Pad Thai is another healthy option you can indulge your taste buds in. Still hungry? Start with the satay and you’ll fill up without filling out.
Rich bold flavors are what make you come back for more at the Indian restaurants near you. There are many healthy dishes, but some of our favorites might be doing us in. Chicken Tikka Masala is one example of an Indian dish that seems healthy, but with all the cream, it’s not. When reading the menu, avoid anything with ‘ghee,’ ‘paneer,’ or ‘malai.’ Dal, a stew of tomatoes, onions, lentils, and spices, is a superb choice. But if you’re craving meat, choose the tandoori. A side of raita, the traditional yogurt-based sauce, adds a nice complement to your healthier Indian choices.
When visiting your favorite American restaurants, it can be very difficult to resist unhealthy temptations. Anything fried should automatically be avoided, as you may have guessed. But what can you eat? Grilled meats, burgers (wrapped in lettuce instead of buns), steamed or baked fish, and any vegetables that aren’t fried or slathered in cream or cheeses. Keep portion size in mind too as most American restaurants pile your plate with more food than you need in one sitting. You can split that heaping portion with someone else or ask for half to be portioned out into a takeout container that you can enjoy the next day.
Whether you’re up for going out to breakfast restaurants or want to order it in so you can dine in your pajamas, making the right choice with the food you start your day with really matters. Pancakes, waffles, and French toast aren’t healthy options, as you may have guessed. Neither is eggs Benedict if you’re in a brunchy mood. Try an egg white omelet sans cheese and loaded with spinach, peppers, and mushrooms. Fruit, whole wheat toast (skip the butter and jelly), and non-fat yogurt are other options that you can add to your meal for a refreshingly healthful and filling way to start your morning.
With a little mindfulness when ordering, you can easily enjoy your favorite cuisines at your local restaurants. So much so, that you might even forget you’re eating healthfully!