One of my close friends has begun her journey to healthy eating and has been having trouble finding time to cook. As a trained chef, she is simply burned out by the time she gets home and has no desire to make her own food. As a result, she has become a victim of eating out. So if you are like her, and want to eat healthy but have to eat out, here is the best healthy eating out guide.
When you eat out there are so many tempting choices, unhealthy ingredients and cooking methods that it is often hard to find a truly healthy meal. Not to mention, most restaurants use processed ingredients that contain many hidden toxins, GMO (corn and grains) and flavorings, that even a seemingly healthy meal may not be. That is why it is so important to learn how to look at a menu in order to find the REAL health food options. That is why I made this healthy eating out guide. While making your own food is always going to be the best choice, life gets in the way and therefore this will help you roll with the punches.
Disclaimer: Most restaurants heat their food too high, use toxic oils like canola, soy and vegetable oil, and hide unhealthy ingredients in even the most healthy of food choices. Therefore, I will show you the best of the not-so- best options, but please always choose the cleanest restaurants available, that promote organic, farm to table cuisine in order to increase your chances of enjoying a truly healthy meal.
Healthy Eating Out Guide
1. Get Creative – Restaurants are usually very accommodating. Just have the guts to ask! Combine side dishes and appetizers to make a healthy meal or ask them what they might be able to put together for you.
2. When in Doubt, Follow the Basics of a Healthy Meal – Fresh vegetables, healthy protein (unheated nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh), good fat (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, olives, nuts/seeds), and a healthy carb/Starch (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, soba noodle).
3. Share – The hardest thing about eating out is overeating. Therefore, don’t put yourself in that situation and ask to share. Otherwise, take half to go. Think about it as setting yourself up for a delicious second meal, while saving money. Win, Win.
Soup: Vegetable Broth Based, Non-Dairy (no creamy soups) filled with vegetables, beans and grains (rice)
Salad: Real Vegetables, excluding dairy and meat. Focus on fresh produce such as tomatoes, cucumber, mushroom, sprouts, beets and pepper. Use a base of dark greens such as arugula, mixed greens, kale and spinach. Get protein from seeds, raw (not candied) nuts, and beans. Try to add a healthy grain like brown rice or quinoa or filling root vegetables like butternut squash, yams and sweet potato. Add healthy fats such as avocado and olives
Just Say “No Thanks”:croutons, candied nuts, meat, wontons, tortilla chips and cheese
Salad Dressing: Stick to dressing on the side. Always order the ones made with olive oil, not with mayonnaise or other creamy choices (thousand island, ranch..)
Extras: Look to fresh fruit, bean salad or side salad
Just Say “No Thanks”: creamy pasta, potato or coleslaw salad and chips
Sandwiches: While all the bread and wrap options are not going to be the best choice, if you can find a local place that makes their bread fresh or tortilla (not subway), then this might be okay. I would always look for making your own sandwich/wrap with grilled vegetables, salsas, hummus, olives, fresh greens, and guacamole
Side Dishes and Appetizers: These are great ways to combine and make your own meal. Great options are: Sautéed vegetables such as Brussels Sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms and artichoke. Baked potato or sweet potato. Grain Dishes: Polenta, brown rice, quinoa, and faro. Bean Dishes: Garbanzo Beans, black beans, lentils, and lima beans.
Burgers: Open-faced veggie burgers are always a great option. I love to just choose a salad and then ask for the veggie burger patty right on top
Soup: Coconut Soup (Tom Kha) or Traditional Tom Yum
Salad: Glass Noodle Salad, Green Salad, Papaya Salad
Main: Vegetable Curry, Vegetable Fried Rice, Pad Sen Mee (rice noodles and vegetables)
Just Say “No Thanks”: Fried dishes (crispy noodles, tempura), and heavily sauced dishes. Always opt to share curry dishes as they are very rich and high in calories
Soup: Vegetable Minestrone, Tomato Soup (non-dairy, non-creamy)
Appetizer: Bruschetta (I just don’t eat the bread), sautéed portabella mushrooms, steamed artichoke
Salads: Usually some great choices with beets, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers, and pine nuts
Pasta: Pasta is almost always made from refined flour and is therefore not a good choice. If it is the only thing on the menu, then get the Primavera where you can eat all of the vegetables from the dish. Also ask if they have any gluten-free options as well. Make sure to have them put it in a tomato-based sauce, no cream-based sauces
Other: Sometimes Italian restaurants have great grilled vegetable plates or polenta dishes, which are always great options
Just Say “No Thanks”: Cream sauces, cheesy toppings, white pasta and white bread
Starters: Miso Soup, Cucumber Salad
Sushi: Vegetable Sushi and Handrolls
Other: Vegetable Noodle Bowls, Eggplant Dishes, and Vegetable Rice Dishes
Just Say “No Thanks”: Spicy sauce and “special sauce” which are mayo-based sauces and cream cheese. Also stay away from tempura
Soup: Lentil Soup, Multigatawny Soup
Entrees: Vegetable Coconut Curry, Mirch Masala (Jalapeno, Garlic, Tomato), Vindaloo (Bell Pepper, Tomato, Chutney), Channa Sag (Chickpea and Spinach), Channa Masala (Chickpea and Ginger), Allo Ghobi (Cauliflower and Potato Curry), Bengan Bartha (Roasted Eggplant)
Rice Dishes: Basmati Rice with Vegetables
Just Say “No Thanks”: Fried Foods (samosas, pakoras), Paneer (cheese). Make sure to always share dishes because they are quite rich and high in calories. The spicier, the better, as this increases your metabolism and keeps you from over-eating
Starters: Tabbouleh, Baba ghanoush, Hummus, Dolmades, Olives, Greek Salad (no feta), Lentil Soup, Fasolada Soup
Entrees: Vegetable Mousaka, Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers, Vegetable Kabob, Cabbage Rolls, Chickpea Salads, Briam (ratatouille)
Other: Roasted Peppers, Orzo, Rice Pilaf, Roasted Potato, Fava Beans, Cous Cous
Just Say “No Thanks”: Fried foods (falafel, crispy vegetables “tiganita”, cheese “saganaki”) and some phyllo pastry dough dishes (Spanakopita)
Starter: Tortilla Soup (only if a vegetarian version is available)
Entrees: Vegetable Fajitas, Vegetable Tacos (corn tortilla), Burrito Bowl (no tortilla), Tamale
Salad: Greens, Fresh Vegetables, Salsa, Beans, Rice, and Avocado
Sides: Guacamole, Salsa, Rice, Black and Pinto Beans (meal in itself)
Just Say “No Thanks”: Anything fried (crispy taco, taquito, chimichanga, tostada shell), cheese (queso), flour tortilla, nachos, tortilla strips and sour cream (including sour cream sauces, which are typically used on fish tacos)
A Few Tips to Offset Toxic Food Exposure (especially in foreign travel):
1. To prevent damage from harmful oils, always take 1-2 capsules of an essential fatty acid supplement. The body will always choose to use the healthy oil over the toxic oil if present.
2. To prevent indigestion, bloating and gas from highly heated foods, hidden dairy and refined flour, take 1-2 digestive enzymes with your meal. This will help your body to digest the food properly, therefore decreasing your chance of having the food rot in your gut.
3. To prevent possible food poisoning or parasitic exposure, take 1-4 HCL capsules at the end of your meal. HCL is naturally produced by the stomach as a digestive aid and natural disinfectant. It will kill any pathogenic substances that might be present in your food. (This is especially important if you eat raw fish – high risk of parasites).
4. If you are traveling to foreign countries, take HCL with each meal as well as Probiotics. Probiotics are essential for maintaining healthy bacteria in your gut which will prevent any unhealthy bacteria from flourishing. The combination of these two have saved so many from diarrhea, food poisoning and sickness when eating foreign foods.