It can be hard to exercise self-control when you’re looking at a mile-long menu packed with tastebud tantalizing options. But your healthy habits don’t have to suffer just because you’re away from home. With the right knowhow—and a few tips from cardiologist Ramin Manshadi—you can eat healthy even when you eat out.
Start by picking the right restaurant. Have a few options lined up and then look at the menus online to see which one offers the best selection of healthy options. Not the one picking the restaurant? Don’t sweat it. “Just like every city has good and bad areas, all restaurants have healthy and unhealthy food,” Dr. Manshadi says. It’s just a matter of learning to identify which options just look good and which options are actually good for you.
Steer clear of any menu item described as “creamy,” “rich,” “fried,” “breaded,” or “smothered,” and opt instead for those “grilled,” “boiled,” and “steamed.” Of course, what you order is just as important as how it’s cooked. Dr. Manshadi suggests choosing fish over red meat and steering clear of high-fat dairy products and premade, processed foods like that bottomless bread basket. “The more vegetable, nuts, and grains you order, the better,” Dr. Manshadi says. And don’t be afraid to ask for simple modifications to make a dish healthier. “If the salad has a very heavy creamy nature, then use balsamic vinaigrette.”
Alternatively, ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much actually ends up on your salad, otherwise this seemingly healthy option can be deceivingly calorie heavy. Just 60 ml of creamy dressing can net you upwards of 200 calories. So much for your best intentions.
Dressings aren’t the only corners you can cut when it comes to calories. Ditch the drinks next. Opting not to order soda or alcohol will save you another 150 calories. “I gave up sodas years ago. Order water with lemon or ice tea without sweetener instead,” says Dr. Manshadi.
Speaking of ordering, make sure you’re the first in line. By ordering first, you’re less likely to be influenced by someone else’s order. And then, once you’ve committed to your healthy choice, don’t change your mind—no matter how good someone else’s order sounds. You can always make a mental note and look for a similar healthy recipe when you get home.