Tips and Tricks to Healthy Eating Out

by Jaime Brenkus

Eating out is a notoriously easy way to rack up added calories, fat, sugar, and salt. However, it’s extremely convenient and a social necessity on certain occasions. Instead of feeling lost the next time you glance at a menu, follow these tips and guidelines to choose smarter, healthier fare!

 

Mexican

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Mexican Soup

  • With the endless bowls of chips and salsa, mounds of queso smothered enchiladas, and fishbowl-sized margaritas, the calories can add up fast when eating Mexican food. Have your fiesta and eat it too with these slimming tips for dining south of the border:
  • Add fresh vegetables and salsa to your dish instead of cheese, queso dip, or sour cream. These ingredients are calorie-dense and can quickly add fat.
  • Choose corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas. Not only are corn tortillas usually smaller, they are also a source of whole grains. For a low-carb alternative, order your dish as a salad bowl.
  • Go meatless! Fill your taco, enchilada, or burrito with a variety of beans and grilled vegetables instead of meat.
  • Order brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain that serves as a rich source of fiber, selenium, and other nutrients.
  • Don’t fill up on chips and salsa – save room for your main course.

 Healthier Picks

  • Chicken fajitas
  • Taco salad (hold the hard shell and queso)
  • Shrimp or chicken tacos on soft corn tortillas

 

Asian

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Summer Rolls
Cartons of white rice, breaded chicken, and greasy egg rolls bathed in soy sauce can quickly become a high-salt, high-calorie nightmare. Follow these quick tips to enjoy your favorite Chinese cuisine:

  • Choose steamed dumplings and “summer” rolls instead of fried wontons and egg rolls. Summer rolls are made with thin rice paper and usually contain fresh vegetables and shrimp or lean meats like chicken and pork.
  • Many meat and vegetarian stir-fry dishes include a variety of vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and mushrooms. However, there is often not a full serving of vegetables in the main dish alone. Consider ordering an extra side of steamed vegetables to complement your entree.
  • Be conscious of sauces. If a dish comes with a thick sauce or dressing, order it on the side. Use soy sauce sparingly, and choose a low-sodium option whenever possible to avoid unnecessary salt intake.
  • Choose a stir-fried or sautéed meat option (e.g., Kung Pao Chicken or Chicken & Broccoli) instead of a breaded or fried meat option (e.g., General Tso’s or Sweet & Sour).
  • Order a side of steamed brown rice rather than white rice or fried rice. Fried rice is often made with white rice and soy sauce, making it higher in salt and lower in fiber than steamed brown rice.

Healthier Picks

  • Kung Pao Chicken. This spicy stir-fry chicken dish is made with peanuts, vegetables, and hot chili peppers.
  • Moo Goo Gai Pan. A stir-fry dish made with chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables.
  • Sashimi

 

Breakfast

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Breakfast Omelette
While stacks of pancakes, sizzling bacon, and gravy-smothered biscuits tempt your taste buds, these breakfast staples can easily pile on fat and calories. Enjoy the most important meal of the day in a healthy way using these simple breakfast tips:

  • Order a side of whole-grain toast rather than enriched grain sources (think: white bread, grits, biscuits, muffins, or buttermilk pancakes). The whole-grain toast will provide a boost of satiating fiber and other important nutrients.
  • Creating your own omelet is the perfect way to load up on a variety of vegetables and protein! Include a leafy green such as kale or spinach and a lean meat source such as turkey or chicken sausage. Sausage is both higher in protein and lower in fat than bacon.
  • For a boost of vegetables, add tomato, avocado, or spinach to your favorite egg dish.
  • As a side dish to complement your entree, choose a cup of fresh fruit or a small bowl of oatmeal instead of home fries or grits.

Healthier Picks

  • Vegetable Omelet
  • Oatmeal with fruit (without brown sugar)
  • Eggs, whole-wheat toast, and fruit0

 

Steakhouse

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Steak
Juicy, red steaks and potatoes doused in cheese and sour cream can turn a traditional American favorite into a fat and calorie-laden meal in no time. Try out these simple tips the next time you dine at a steakhouse for a healthy spin on some American classics:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat (think: filet mignon, flank steak, or tenderloin) instead of fatty cuts of meat such as a rib-eye or T-bone.
  • Keep portion size in mind. Bigger isn’t always better. When ordering steak, consider choosing a portion of 3-6 ounces.
  • Pair your steak with a baked potato, brown rice, or a house salad. Avoid scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, or wedge salads. The latter options are often prepared using cheese, oil or cream-based sauces, leading them to be higher in both fat and calories.
  • Use butter, sour cream, and cream-based sauces sparingly, and always ask for these condiments to come on the side.

Healthier Picks

  • Filet mignon and baked sweet potato
  • Grilled salmon with steamed broccoli
  • Burger (without a bun or cheese) with baked potato and a side salad
  • Grilled chicken with steamed mixed veggies and brown rice

 

Italian

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Chicken Marsala
Italian restaurants are known for plates of spaghetti stacked a mile high, never-ending bread baskets, and creamy Alfredo sauce. Dodge the barrage of calories, refined carbs, and excess fat with these tips:

  • When ordering spaghetti, tortellini, or other pasta dishes, ask your server whether whole-grain pasta is available. If so, opt for the whole grains instead.
  • Choose a tomato-based sauce instead of a cream-based one like Alfredo. Vegetable-based sauces will usually be lower in fat and calories than cream-based alternatives.
  • Italian restaurants often offer a variety of fish and shrimp options. Choose a grilled seafood dish for a boost of essential fats.
  • Skip the unlimited bread baskets. Complement your entree with a side salad (dressing on the side) or a small piece of plain whole-grain bread.
  • Ask for grated cheese on the side so you can sprinkle it on yourself, or just omit it altogether.
  • Ask your server whether small “lunch” portions are available. Or, order a regular entree portion and place half in a to-go box before eating your meal.

 Healthier Picks

  • Minestrone soup and house salad
  • Chicken Marsala
  • Grilled fish and vegetables with marinara over whole wheat pasta

 

Southern Food

Jaime Brenkus Eating Out The Healthy Way Block Images Collared Greens
Creamy mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and cornbread can satisfy almost anyone, yet these Southern classics quickly become calorie-dense high-fat meals. Enjoy your traditional Southern favorites the lighter way using these healthy tips:

  • Choose grilled or roasted meat instead of heavier meats like fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, fried pork chops, or fried shrimp.
  • Order a salad or side of freshly cooked vegetables like green beans, collard greens, or stewed okra. Avoid fried vegetables and heavy starch-based sides like fried okra, potato salad, macaroni salad, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato soufflé, or mashed potatoes.
  • If your entree comes with gravy or other heavy sauces, ask for them on the side so you can control exactly how much to add.
  • Drink unsweetened tea or water with lemon to avoid the added sugar and calories that come from drinking sweet tea, lemonade, or soda.
  • Order the kids meal. If you’re craving a pulled-pork sandwich, get the smaller portion off the kids’ menu, which is usually served with only one side.

Healthier Picks

  • Pulled chicken with baked beans and collard greens
  • Smoked turkey with green beans and corn on the cob
  • Beef brisket with stewed okra and coleslaw

Eating out can be intimidating when you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but utilize these tips and you can enjoy your restaurant meal without abandoning healthy eating. Enjoy!

Last updated: 09.05.2018
Coach Image

Written byJaime Brenkus

Celebrity exercise guru and Evergreen Wellness® Fitness Coach Jaime Brenkus is an early innovator of exercise videos in the 90s, having created the highly successful “8-Minute” video series featuring the blockbuster-selling “8-Minute Abs” video. Jaime has helped millions of people get fit, having also developed other well-received health and wellness products, including the Perfect Portions control plate. Jaime is also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as an Exercise Physiologist – a designation he has held for nearly two decades. By teaming up with Evergreen Wellness, Jaime brings his fitness expertise to older adults through easily performed workout videos, in-person events, live streams, seminars, classes, and endorsed wellness-related products. As an Evergreen Wellness Fitness Coach, his goal is to add more “boom” to baby boomers’ lives, inspiring them to look and feel better by leading happier, healthier lifestyles.

Coach Image

Written by Jaime Brenkus

Celebrity exercise guru and Evergreen Wellness® Fitness Coach Jaime Brenkus is an early innovator of exercise videos in the 90s, having created the highly successful “8-Minute” video series featuring the blockbuster-selling “8-Minute Abs” video. Jaime has helped millions of people get fit, having also developed other well-received health and wellness products, including the Perfect Portions control plate. Jaime is also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as an Exercise Physiologist – a designation he has held for nearly two decades. By teaming up with Evergreen Wellness, Jaime brings his fitness expertise to older adults through easily performed workout videos, in-person events, live streams, seminars, classes, and endorsed wellness-related products. As an Evergreen Wellness Fitness Coach, his goal is to add more “boom” to baby boomers’ lives, inspiring them to look and feel better by leading happier, healthier lifestyles.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

Get 4 free 8-minute workouts

We monitor comments. See guidelines

Comments