When you’re deciding where to go out to eat, do you think about how to find a healthy restaurant?
If you’re putting effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the answer will most likely be ‘yes’, at least most of the time!
Some might say that if you’re going to eat at a restaurant, there’s no point trying to be healthy. But sometimes you want, or even need to, maintain a healthy diet, and you still really want to enjoy a meal out. Not to worry, there are styles of cooking and cuisine that include foods that are good for you! They might not always advertise themselves as “healthy” so you’ll need to seek out the right type of cuisine or cooking style to make sure you have plenty of healthy options.
Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants
If you’re not sure where to start with healthy restaurants, one easy way to find healthy options is to look for vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Dietary vegans avoid eating meat, eggs and dairy to improve health, prolong life, lose weight or lower disease risk. Vegans eat a wide variety of plant foods, including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Of course, not all vegan and vegetarian food is healthy just because it’s meat and dairy free. But you are more likely to find healthy choices in these restaurants.
The vegan and vegetarian restaurant scene is growing, so you can find many in most big cities. You don’t have to eat vegetarian or vegan to enjoy them. Even if your typically includes meat or dairy, it is possible to enjoy a meal without those components.
Healthy Cuisines from Around the World
Exploring different cuisines from around the world is a good way to discover some healthier restaurants.And, those that adhere more closely to the authentic preparation rather than ‘Americanizing’ the indgredients or preparation might be a better choice.
According to our friends at Food Network, these are the six healthiest ethnic cuisines, keeping in mind that any cuisine will include ingredients that may not be healthy for you:
- Greek – you’ll find lots of fish, fruits, veggies, whole grains. olive oil and red wine. What to skip? Excessive olive oil, deep fried foods and (sigh) the gyro
- Japanese – look for the edmame, miso soup and the generous variety of seafood, as well as some brown rice. What to skip? Pass on the oilier or fried dishes (bye-bye eggrolls), and put limits on the sushi because of the quantity of white rice it includes.
- Indian – many of the spices used in Indian food offer health benefits, including turmeric, red chiles, ginger and garam masala. What to skip? Take a pass on dishes that are full of cream, butter or coconut sauce, as well as the fried entrees.
- Spanish – the tapas that are commonly the way food is served, are automatically providing portion control, as long as you don’t order one of everything on the menu! You also find fish, beef, tomatoes and beans are plentiful. What to avoid? As mentioned, eating too many tapas, as well as the fried options like squid or deep fried olives.
- Thai – plenty of fruits, veggies, lean meats, and seafood are available, along with turmeric and ginger. What to avoid? Pass on the entrees with coconut milk or oil, and request sauces on the side.
- Mexican – stick with the fajitas with grilled chicken or beef strips and you’re okay, as well as the options with lots of veggies. Tomatoes are good for you and they’re plentiful in this cuisine. What to avoid? You guessed it…my downfall every time…chips (and salsa). I just have no control when they’re put in front of me. Take care with the cheesy dishes, too.
You might think of Chinese food as greasy takeouts, but Cantonese cuisine can have lots of healthy choices, including veggies and many entrees that are steamed or stir fried.
Seafood isn’t always super healthy. Slathering lobster in butter or combining it with steak isn’t going to give you the healthiest meal.
But on its own, seafood tends to be a leaner and healthier source of protein. It also has lots of great nutrients, including important omega-3 fatty acids. If you choose a seafood restaurant, you can find some healthy dishes, but pay attention to ingredients and cooking methods. Something deep fried with a creamy sauce is very different than an entree that’s grilled with a light dressing.
One thing I’ve learned about seafood dishes, or really any entree, is to read all of the description carefully. You might see a particular entree that sounds perfect for you, but you see that it includes a heavy sauce. Ask for the entree with the sauce on the side, so you can still have a taste of it but not have your seafood covered with it.
Look for Portion Control
Another good idea is to look for restaurants that allow you to choose your portions. Some menus offer half portions, which are great if you can’t handle, or would prefer not to eat, a whole portion, and don’t want to take anything home.
Buffets can be an option too, but only if you can maintain self-control. You can get yourself a small portion – and avoid going back for seconds. If you don’t mind taking food home, you can just eat a portion of your meal and ask to have the rest boxed up to take home.
Use a Free App to Find a Healthy Restaurant
When you’re out and about it can be tricky to find the type of healthy food you want. Fortunately there are a number of free apps that will give you quick and simple guidance.
- Food Tripping – a GPS based app that finds local, sustainable food at convenient spots, including food markets, juice bars, organic coffee shops and more.
- InBloom – locates restaurants with your preferences as well as shops and hotels that cater to your needs.
- Clean Plates – filter options by cuisine, price or diet preferences like gluten-free, vegan or raw. They have a strict review process as well as a rating process to help you decide.
Have a Plan!
Healthy eating on a consistent basis requires planning, and eating out can present challenges. Here are 7 tips to remember for healthy dining out:
- Plan ahead – eat light for lunch if you’re heading out for dinner
- Think ahead – choose your restaurant in advance and do some research
- Order carefully – read menu options and make sure to include healthy choices like fruits and veggies
- Substitute if needed
- Order a small portion if available, or eat half of the entree and take the rest home
- Eat slowly and give your brain time to know you have fed your stomach – about 20 minutes
- If you’re with children, choose a restaurant that caters to kids
Hopefully, these tips will come in hand if you need to know how to find a healthy restaurant! Bon appetit!