Making healthy choices when you go to a restaurant can be difficult. Having less control over the ingredients that go into your meal can mean a major splurge night even when ordering something that seems healthy. Don’t stress! It is totally possible to put together a healthier restaurant order with just a few simple strategies.
Check out our tips below.
Look for “Low Sodium” Options
There is a well-established link between high sodium intake and high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A typical restaurant meal contains far more sodium than an adult should consume in a single day.
Many restaurants are starting to label “low sodium” options, but even if you cannot find a “low sodium” label on the menu, you can still minimize the amount of sodium in your meal. Avoid dishes that contain cheese and processed meats, as these are high-sodium foods. You can also ask your server to tell the chefs not add salt to your meal when they prepare it.
Choose the Salad
Did you know that about 97 percent of Americans aren’t eating enough fiber? Fiber is a critical nutrient for proper digestive function, and there is strong evidence to suggest that higher fiber intake reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
They best way to get more fiber in your diet is to eat raw vegetables and fruits, as you would in a salad. Many people find that salad is not a sufficiently filling entree, but there’s no doubt that it’s a healthier appetizer or side dish than soup or fries. For optimal healthfulness, order oil and vinegar instead of a prepared dressing with your salad, since prepared dressings are often high in sodium, sugar or both.
Choose Whole Grains
You can make a meal healthier simply by ordering brown rice instead of white rice, or having your sandwich on whole grain bread instead of white bread. Multiple studies have found that eating whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, most likely due to the fact whole grains contain much more fiber than refined grains.
Given this research, it’s best to avoid added sugars in your diet. When eating out, skip the soda, lemonade, fruit punch and sweetened tea. For dessert, fresh fruit is a healthy substitute for ice cream or cake. Although fruit does contain fructose, all research indicates people who consume more fruit are healthier.
Try a Vegan Dish
Multiple studies have found that a plant-based diet lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of developing diabetes. Doctors have even found that a whole foods plant-based diet, along with stress management and exercise, can actually reverse heart disease.
With so many scientifically proven benefits of a vegan diet, you may want to consider choosing less animal foods and more plant foods. Many restaurants are now offering more vegan options, so eating out is a good opportunity to be adventurous and try a vegan dish.
Using the above tips, you can choose a restaurant meal that is lower in sodium, cholesterol, and sugar, and higher in fiber and essential vitamins. But remember: if you’re aiming for an optimally healthy diet, cooking at home is the healthiest choice.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Rido / Adobe Stock
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Sebastian / Adobe Stock
gitusik / Adobe Stock