At times it can be very overwhelming and complicated to choose the cleanest, healthiest option when dining out at major restaurant chains or local establishments. This article will provide you with important tips and thoughts to consider when ordering your meals.
1. Do your homework
This one is simple – before you arrive at the restaurant, check the menu and nutritional information on their website. Most major chains will have very thorough nutritional information that you should review in order to determine the best meal option that meets your dietary requirements. Avoid the usual suspects – deep-fried, creamy, et cetera. At the restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask your server questions like how certain dishes are prepared, what toppings come on it, or if you can substitute certain unhealthy sides for steamed vegetables, a side salad with olive oil, and vinegar or a plain sweet potato. You should also be aware that restaurants always use way too much salt to enhance the flavor of their dishes, so ask your server to limit the salt or hold the salt…that way you control the amount of salt used. I like to pour a small amount in my palm and sprinkle it over the dish (there is about 500mg of sodium in a ¼ teaspoon of salt – you shouldn’t be consuming more than 2,000mg per day and most dishes already have that much out of the kitchen).
Tip – There are plenty of apps for smartphones that have consolidated nutritional information for several chain restaurants. One that I have and really like is simply called “Fast Food”.
2. Order water
Another simple one – get rid of the empty calories found in sodas, beers, and sweetened beverages. Free refills and sitting around a table chatting with friends for nearly an hour is an easy way to consume ridiculous levels of sugar (or even worse, chemically altered products that are turned into sugar). If you need some flavor in your water, squeeze a lime or lemon into it. As an added bonus, you will save $2.00 for every meal you dine out…you’d be surprised at how quickly that adds up!
3. Don’t be afraid to be that guy (or girl)!
There will be times where you are with a new crowd, whether it be certain co-workers or acquaintances, and you may feel like it would just be easier to not look picky and order a standard dish without “cleaning it up”. Sure, we’ve all been in this position before, but you just have to hold the perspective that what is truly important and gratifying to you, may not be to other individuals, but they aren’t going to think anything less of you just because you altered your order at dinner; most of the time, they probably don’t even notice. And if you’re worried about what the server thinks of you then you haven’t fully committed yourself to the clean eating lifestyle.
4. Skip the appetizers
We all know most appetizers are not healthy, so don’t even order them. If someone else at your table does order them, resist the temptation…there is absolutely no nutritional value in 99% of the appetizers found in restaurants.
5. Ask for a box as soon as you get your meal
For those needing to practice portion control and limiting calories, ask for a box when you get your food and immediately put half of your meal in the box, close it, and put it somewhere where you will not have the urge to go in for seconds. Not only does this save on calories, but it spreads your meal cost over two meals (clearly, frugality is something we cherish here).
6. Execute your order based on your homework
Now that you’ve reviewed the menu and you know what to ask for (or what not to ask for), it is time to execute your order and make sure you always tell your server two things – no (or light) salt and no butter. Many restaurants actually have a section that you can order from where no butter is used and salt is left out of the seasonings; Outback Steakhouse is one of them.
Remember rule number 3 when you’re ordering – nobody really cares what you ordered and you may actually get asked why you ordered that way. If so, you can impart your wisdom on them and hopefully inspire them to do so the next time they dine out.
7. Skip the dessert
What did we say about sugar in number 2? 😉
8. Enjoy your meal and revel in your success
It’s always important to remember that the satisfaction you get from eating tasty but unhealthy foods is fleeting, but the satisfaction that you will receive from building that body that you’ve always dreamed of is much more enduring. Not only will you love the way you look, but you will have more energy and more self-confidence that will go a long way in your professional and personal life. The journey you will take to get there will open new doors and give you a new-found perspective on life, which will make you happier.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence” – Aristotle
Here are some final thoughts to consider:
- Avoid butter and salt.
- Try to order veggies or salads as your side dish, if you have to order carbohydrates, make sure you order complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat bread, couscous, etc.
- Avoid sodas, alcohol, and sweetened beverages.
- Get dressings or sauces on the side.
- Ask your server if you can create your own order…most places have plain and simple grilled chicken and you can simply add steamed veggies and sweet potato as your two sides.
- Tip well! If your server fulfills your order as you requested, you should show your appreciation for their efforts.
You may also be interested in our article on How to Eat Healthy on a Budget.
Here is a small list of the restaurants we recommend for clean eating:
- Ted’s Montana Grill
- Outback Steakhouse
- Jason’s Deli
- PF Changs
- Panera Bread
- Atlanta Bread Company