When cooking at home, you are in control of what you make and the ingredients that go into it. Unfortunately, when dining out at restaurants, you can never be too sure. Despite stricter regulations on the transparency of restaurant menus and nutritional information, excess calories, fats and sodium are still sometimes hidden.
Here are some helpful tips to make healthier restaurant meal choices when you dine out.
First and foremost, know the ingredients. Before you even enter the restaurant, you may want to search for an ingredients list or basic nutrition information on their website. Looking into this beforehand can help you plan a healthier meal.
Lighter options in these settings include salads, soups and sandwiches. When it comes to salads, be wary of creamy dressings (ex. ranch, Caesar, bleu cheese) and “light” dressings (sodium and sugar is often used to compensate for the reduced fat and flavor). The better choice would be oil-based dressings (ex. balsamic vinaigrette) or even a simple oil and vinegar combo. And remember to always request the dressing on the side. When it comes to soups, researching in advance can come in handy as these are often high in sodium.
Fast Food Burgers
When it comes to burgers, your best bet is to stick to the basics – bun, patty, lettuce, tomato. You also want to avoid fatty ingredients such as bacon. When it comes to condiments, instead of ketchup, barbecue sauce and honey mustard, which contain high fructose corn syrup, try yellow or Dijon mustard. And most places now allow you to skip the bun and get it wrapped in lettuce instead.
Fast Food Chicken Joint
Choosing grilled chicken instead of fried chicken can save you calories, fat, and sodium. However, what you may not know is that most of these restaurants use MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is a flavor-enhancer that may cause nausea and migraines in some people. Again, researching ahead of time would be helpful in this case.
Skip the sugary blended drinks and opt for a basic cup of brewed coffee, a shot of espresso, or an Americano. The latter are filled with antioxidants and low in calories.
Sandwiches are basically made up of bread, protein, veggies, and condiments. Better-for-you options include whole-grain bread, whole-grain or Dijon mustard, and minimally-processed protein such as chicken breast or thinly-sliced roast beef. When it comes to salads, load up on veggies and use a bit of olive oil and vinegar.
Corn tortillas are the better than flour tortillas in that the latter are higher in calories, fat, and sodium. Use cheese in moderation as the shredded options often contain preservatives and artificial ingredients. Be conscious of your sodium intake and portion sizes if you opt to flavor your food with guacamole or salsas (ex. pico de gallo, black bean & corn, tomatillo).
These restaurants offer a wide variety of foods so healthy options are not the main issue. Instead, you need to be mindful of portion sizes. Keep your choices simple and pay attention to sodium.
While there are nutritious options available here, unhealthy favorites are usually more tempting (ex. creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, prime rib). Choose the leanest cuts of beef (ex. sirloin, filet, New York strip) and keep it simple – avoid heavy sauces like béarnaise or peppercorn cream. For your sides, opt for steamed veggies. If they are not listed on the menu, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Enjoy a healthy sandwich or salad at the Brick Your Neighborhood Deli! We’re open weekdays 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm. You can order online or get your favorites delivered via DoorDash or UberEATS.