Healthier/Low Calorie Options When Eating Out

In recent years, eating out has gone from a luxury or special event to an every day occurrence. While we strongly encourage you to meal plan and use fresh ingredients to cook and eat at home or from packed meals more often, we understand that you will need convenient grab-and-go options. This could be while traveling, lacking time to pack lunch for work, on vacation, forgetting to meal plan, going out with friends, etc. Knowing what healthier options are available to you can be priceless! We think you will realize from this list that there are always healthier options available?if you?re looking for them!

Please note that we are only able to list food choices that have their menus printed online, which usually means a chain restaurant or fast food establishment. However, if you want guidance for eating at non-chain locations, we encourage you to follow the same patterns you see here, as based on the balanced (8 inzplate:

½ plate fruits and/or vegetables

¼ plate complex carbohydrate (½ – 1 cup per meal, ½ cup = the size of your fist)

¼ plate lean proteins (3-6 oz cooked per meal, 3 oz = size of the palm of your hand)

Added fats (1-2 tbsp per meal, 1 tbsp = size of your thumb)

When ordering at restaurants, there are some ways to lighten up a dish and make them more nutrient-dense (higher in water and fiber content).

  • Order steaks, fish, chicken and eggs dry (without oil or butter)
  • Order steaks, fish, chicken and eggs dry (without oil or butter)
  • Order dressings and sauces on the side (add 1-2 tbsp, as noted above)
  • Order steamed veggies without butter
  • Ask for brown rice, whole grain pastas and breads
  • Assemble a meal from sides or appetizers (think complex carbohydrate, protein, fat and add vegetables ? you will see examples of this on the lists)
  • If ordering a full meal, you may want to avoid appetizers.
  • Ask for special healthier choice or low-calorie menus. These will often be smaller portions.
  • Ask them to box half the meal before they bring it or you box half when it comes
  • Make compromises based on the balanced plate as described above. For example, if you order a hamburger, you have a protein and carbohydrate so you may want to order a side salad rather than French fries. However, if you really would like fries, order them with grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. This can be a way to choose a food you really want to enjoy while still being mindful of balance and portion size.
  • And finally, my favorite tip: You ALWAYS have the option of ordering what you really want, letting yourself enjoy it by savoring it and eating slowly while listening to physical hunger and fullness cues that can tell you when to stop eating. This can happen when you don?t feel the need to get it all right now because you can never have it again (diet mentality).

In the weeks to come, we will be posting a series of the alphabetized list of healthier or lower calorie menu items from chain restaurants or fast food establishments. We do include a recommended meal from each, based on the balanced plate and/or what would likely be most satisfying and nutrient-dense. We include calorie counts for those interested. If you do not see a restaurant you frequent on this list, please let us know and we can review and possibly add information for it. Ultimately we hope you find this blog series helpful. Come back next week for part 1.

For establishments A-C click HERE

For establishments D-J click HERE

For establishments K-O click HERE

For establishments P-R click HERE

For establishments S-Z click HERE