Eating Out Healthfully

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With Labor Day and school starting up, we start to ponder, what do I bring to the neighborhood cookout?  What do I pack for the tailgating party?  What do I pack the kids school lunch?  Suddenly, eating out seems like the most plausible option. Unfortunately, restaurant dishes are often loaded with calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar that make these meals taste SO GOOD.  We waste time, money, and calories on these large, expensive meals.  Here are some strategies to consider using when eating out and further tips on how to recreate these dishes at home.

Eating out healthfully recommendations


  1. Ask if a dish can be halved or check to see if a lunch portion is available.
  2. In general, stick to grilled, baked, or steamed dishes over fried. Request no added oil, butter, salt, or sugar.
  3. Choose leaner portions such as chicken, fish, or sirloin steak.
  4. Load up on veggies!
  5. Split dessert and have 1 or 2 bites, or substitute the dessert for seasonal fruit.

Top choices based on the cuisine


  • Appetizer: Choose most often vegetables without added fats, oils, or salts or a filling salad to start the meal. Choose only sometimes chicken wings, dips, and high fat onion rings.  Ask for no croutons, cheese, or nuts on the salad. Choose a few lemon slices or balsamic vinegar as an alternative to cream-based salad dressing.
  • Soup: Choose broth based vegetable soup without added cream or cheese. Most will be high in sodium!
  • Entrée: Fresh fish, seafood, or skinless white meat chicken (broiled, steamed, broiled, or poached without added butter, oil, or salt). Plain pasta with meat red sauce is a good lower fat option.  An omelet without added cheese or salt can be a great choice at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
  • Dessert: Fresh fruit most often.


  • Appetizer: Steamed corn tortillas (rather than fried chips) with the salsa.
  • Soup: Black bean or gazpacho soup are healthful and tasty. Sodium will be high!
  • Entrée: Chicken fajitas, sautéed with no oil, with steamed corn tortillas; soft, steamed tostada with beans, salsa, lettuce, onion, and shredded vegetables; chicken enchilada or soft chicken or fish taco (with no breading or dressing); chicken or seafood taco salad (without the taco shells), arroz con pollo


  • Appetizer: Steamed mussels or clams, grilled vegetables with minimal or no oil, or steamed artichokes
  • Salad: Salad with no meat, cheese, or olives. Use vinegar or lemon juice as a dressing.  Arugula with balsamic vinegar is a great choice too!
  • Soup: Minestrone (although high in sodium!)
  • Pasta: Ask for whole-wheat pasta or zoodles. Choose less often stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini.  Ask for pasta cooked in unsalted water.
  • Sauce: Meatless tomato sauce (marinara, pomodoro); use sauce with oil and salt sparingly; request fresh, chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, and a splash of balsamic vinegar as a good alternative to sauce; order side of grilled or steamed vegetables to mix in with pasta
  • Entrée: Grilled fish or chicken or pasta primavera (avoid hidden fat like oil and butter)
  • Vegetable: Order vegetables without butter or sauce
  • Dessert: Fruit Salad or fresh strawberries in Marsala wine


  • Appetizer: Cucumber salad
  • Rice: Plain steamed brown rice
  • Vegetables: Request vegetables stir-fried in defatted chicken broth, wine, or water; ask for no soy sauce or salt
  • Entrée: Moo Goo Gai Pan (fresh mushrooms with sliced chicken), Buddha’s Delight (savory vegetarian stew), vegetable lo mein, vegetarian or chicken chop suey, bean or rice threads or noodle dishes with chicken or tofu, broccoli with scallops or chicken, whole steamed fish (no skin) with ginger and garlic
  • Dessert: Fresh fruit (almond and fortune cookies less often)


  • Appetizer: Satay (marinated grilled beef or chicken)- use sparingly the peanut dipping sauce; steamed mussels, Thai garden salad, steamed rice, and seafood kebob
  • Soup: Crystal noodle soup or Talay Thong (seafood, beans, vegetables)
  • Entrée: Thai chicken (caution portion of cashews), sweet an sour chicken, Poy Siam (sautéed seafood), scallops/bamboo/vegetable boat, Pad Thai (vegetables, noodles, spices)
  • Dessert: Fresh fruit


  • Appetizer: Vegetable vinaigrette, grilled vegetables, fresh asparagus, or steamed artichokes. For a tangy, delicious dipping sauce, mix some balsamic vinegar with Dijon mustard.
  • Soup: Onion soup (without cheese) or lentil soup; however, all soups will be high in sodium and probably contain a little oil.
  • Salad: Salads with steamed or marinated fresh vegetables.
  • Entrée: Roasted chicken, grilled chicken or fish, poached salmon, fish stew (bouillabaisse), or filet mignon.


  • Appetizer: Papadum (baked lentil wafers typically made with oil)
  • Soup: Samber (vegetarian), Mulligatawny (lentil and vegetables), or Dahl Rasam (lentil and peppers)
  • Salad: Chopped salad with onion, tomatoes, and lettuce
  • Bread: Chapati (whole wheat), Nan (poppy seed), or Kuicha (leavened baked bread). Request bread directly from the oven before they are “oiled”
  • Entrée: Chicken Tandoori, chicken Tikki (roasted with mild spices), chicken Saag (spinach, hold the cream), chicken Vindaloo (spicy dish with potato), shrimp Bhuna (cooked with vegetables), Aloo-Gobi (cauliflower and potato), Pullao (basmati rice), Chana (anything with garbanzo beans)


  • Appetizer: Cucumber salad in vinaigrette, grilled vegetables, or steamed soybeans (edamame- without the salt on top)
  • Soup: Miso soup (high in sodium!)
  • Rice: Steamed brown rice
  • Entrée: Seafood sunomono (with vegetables and vinegar), sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, mizutaki (chicken and vegetables simmered in water), or steamed, grilled, or roasted fish
  • Dessert: Fresh fruit

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