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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: Restaurant decisions

Anna Grindeland, RD, CD

We know that home-cooking can save you money, calories, and is 9 times out of ten healthier than eating out. But, inevitably, trips to restaurants will happen and you may be faced with some very tough choices. Below are some tips on how to eat healthier when eating out at your favorite restaurants:

General tips:

  • The more vegetables the better. Many restaurants now have vegetarian or vegan options that can be just as satisfying as a meat entrée. Give one of these options a try, or at least choose an entrée that has lots of vegetables. Vegetables contain fiber and nutrients to help you stay fuller, longer without going overboard on calories.
  • Think (or ask) about ingredients used. Restaurants often add extra salt, sugars, oils, flavorings, butter, and/or cream to make dishes more appealing. Don’t be afraid to ask what is in your food and to then request for something to be changed. Order the way you want it.
  • Skip on anything fried. Deep fried foods are loaded with added fat and the batters used are often packed with salt and extra calories. Look for the words Baked, Grilled, or Steamed for healthier options.


  • Order vegetables with a grilled protein or choose a vegetarian meal. o Choose brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Choose broth-based soups and dishes.
  • Ask for sauces on the side.
  • Steer clear of sugar-based sauces (like duck or plum).


  • Try a burrito bowl or salad. Order it loaded with vegetables and lighter on the meats and rice.
  • Watch out for high-fat toppings like sour cream, and cheese. Add fiber-rich flavor boosters like tomatoes, lime juice, lettuce, onions, and salsa.
  • Be mindful of the chips and salsa: Either ask for them to be taken away or only take a small amount with your meal.
  • Cut burritos in half and save half for lunch the next day –or share!


  • Ask for whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta.
  • Look for these words on the menu: grilled, steamed, lightly sautéed, baked, roasted.
  • If you are choosing a pasta dish, choose one that incorporates a lean protein, and opt for marinara or a simple sauce made of olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Skip the Alfredo or cream sauces.
  • Italians are very good with their vegetables. Try an eggplant or squash-based dish for something different.


  • Try kebabs made with prawns, grilled chicken, tandoori salmon, or vegetables.
  • Look for dal, a savory dish made with seasoned lentils which are loaded with healthy fiber and protein.
  • Order steamed vegetables to stir into curries. This adds volume and reduces the calories from fats (like ghee and cream).
  • Eat family-style to save on portions and get more variety.

Some restaurants now post their nutrition information on their menu. Keep in mind that sides and extra sauces may not be included in the calorie count, and meals can always be split. Use your sharp decision-making skills to pick a meal you will find satisfying, tasty, and won’t regret later in the day.

This is your Tasty Tuesday.

Bon Appetit!

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.