Finding Healthy Restaurants

Finding Healthy Restaurants
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Eating out is one of life’s little (or big) pleasures, and there are many ways to choose a restaurant with healthy options. The Lark DPP check-in mentioned looking for places with salad bars and chicken or fish and with nutritional information on menus. Those and other solid strategies can leave you with a satisfying, delicious meal without any remorse.

Basic Foods to Seek

Just as you might do when planning a home-cooked meal, it can be helpful to start with the basics when looking for a healthy restaurant. Most meals should have an abundance of vegetables, which you might find in the form of a green salad or steamed or roasted vegetables as a side order, and a serving of lean protein, such as grilled or roasted chicken or fish, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, tuna, tofu, lentils, eggs, or beans. There may be the occasional bonus, such as a whole grain or healthy fat!

These are some items that might be on the menu.

  • Eggs or egg whites with spinach, tomatoes, and/or other vegetables.
  • A turkey or chicken sandwich with vegetables on whole-grain bread.
  • Chicken fajitas (no need to eat the tortillas).
  • Tofu or shrimp stir fry that may come with brown rice.
  • Bean and vegetable soup.

While it is important that the restaurant offer healthy options, it can be just as useful to remember that those same restaurants will almost certainly also offer unhealthy options, possibly far more than the healthy ones. There is no need to avoid those restaurants as long as you are confident that you will not order the pitfalls.

Before You Go

You have an advantage if you know ahead of time that you will be eating out, since you can plan ahead. The advantage is bigger still if you are the one choosing which restaurant to eat at, so feel free to volunteer to take on that duty!

As or after you choose, you can:

  • Check the menu to identify healthy options and decide what you will order. This helps you avoid flipping through the menu on the spot and being tempted by less-healthy options.

  • Check the nutrition facts, which are often online, for calories and possibly nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates.

Ordering Off of the Menu

Sometimes, a little creativity can go a long way when a restaurant does not appear to have a you-friendly menu item. It may be necessary to mix and match healthy meal components to come up the meal you want.

For example, the restaurant may offer a grilled chicken and bacon sandwich. While you may not want the bread, mayo, and bacon, you still know that grilled chicken is available at that restaurant. Elsewhere on the menu, there could be a salad with greens, tomatoes, and croutons. The server may be willing to bring you a salad with greens and tomatoes, plus grilled chicken.

Last-Minute Decisions

Despite the best of intentions, it is not always possible to plan ahead for a restaurant meal. That is okay! Just stick to what you know. Wherever you find yourself, a lean protein, some vegetables or fruit, and a glass of water are nearly always available.