Healthy Eating Tips For Restaurants

May 11, 2012   24 Comments

Snack Girl, the person, wants to "walk the talk" of her website. She confronts many situations where it isn't easy to follow her own advice.

Restaurant Tips For Healthy Eaters

Recently, I went to a restaurant for a celebration of my daughter's eighth birthday. She had requested this lunch as a gift - and my husband, son, and I were happy to comply. When we sat down, I was distracted by ensuring my five year old didn't dump his drink all over the table (etc.) so I didn't get a chance to read the menu.

My husband ordered a burger (no!), my son ordered macaroni and cheese (no!) and my daughter ordered sliders (no!). What was I going to order? "Ummmm. I will have the grilled salmon.", I stated proudly.

I would get Omega-3 fatty acids, broccoli, carrots and some mashed potatoes that I don't have to finish. Hurray!

See that photo up there? That is the picture that I took after eating one bite of my grilled salmon which was cooked perfectly. I just couldn't believe it - there was butter sauce all over the plate! One issue with being Snack Girl is that I can quote the calories and saturated fat in one tablespoon of butter (100 calories, 7 grams of saturated fat). Yikes!

How many tablespoons did they put on this lovely fish?

I asked to see the menu to see if I could claim they had made a mistake - but there it was "Grilled Salmon, Carrots, Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes, and Butter Sauce". Oooops.

Sometimes I feel like I have to interrogate the waitstaff to get exactly what I want. The problem here is that I ASSUMED you wouldn't put 4 tablespoons of butter on salmon and I didn't take the time to read the menu.

It was so frustrating because I had avoided the fries, bread, soda, jalapeno poppers - you name it - and managed to find something I really wanted to eat.

Here is my short list of tips to keep in mind when ordering in restaurants:

  • Order grilled not fried.
  • Put any kind of sauce (salad dressing, mayonnaise, butter, hollandaise) on the SIDE.
  • Substitute a side salad for the fries.

Finally, when you are celebrating with your family, do your best and enjoy yourself. I managed to laugh at my mistake and YES! I had the cake and ice cream for dessert :)

How do you deal with eating healthy and restaurants?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 24 )

it's frustrating when you it's turns up in a creamy sauce or something you weren't expecting.

i often substitute rice for steamed veg on lots of dishes.

It's hard to eat out and be healthy - I look for grilled, poached, etc. proteins and/or meal-sized salad options (taking care to ask for no croutons, cheese, etc. or things on the side). It's amazing how nice waitstaff/chefs are if you ask nicely for things - as in "I'm trying to lose a few pounds/eat healthfully . . . do you think the chef would be willing to broil the haddock without breadcumbs and butter?" or at, say, an omelette station "do you have any cooking spray to make my eggwhite omelette?" if no "could you please go very easy on the oil?" They'll almost always try to help!

I was out to dinner recently and ordered a baked sweet potato as a side dish - fantastic! Yeah, when it arrived it was covered in butter and brown sugar! That's delicious but...not exactly what I had in mind. I scooped off what I could and then enjoyed what was left on there, figuring it was a learning experience for next time.

I find myself 'apologizing' up front to the server....telling them I'm going to be your 'problem child' in advance and then asking/requesting lets them know I'm not just ordering from the menu. I "preach" this at my WW meetings all the time. Being polite helps as well!

i do the same things - sub veggies for starches, get a sweet potato insted of white potato, look for grilled meats of whatever variety, don't get the free bread and ask for a substitute instead if there is one, substitute a salad or a cup of fresh fruit for whatever i can, get any dressing or sauce on the side, and use salsa for my salad dressing if available. if fries are in order for the meal, i ask how large they are, and often let the family 'share' an order of fries so that my kids don't get one on their own and neither do i! we can all enjoy a few with our entree. it's all about being kind and asking for what you want. be sure to tip your waiter well if they do a good job for you! that's what they're working hard for at their below-minimum-wage job. i lived with 3 other gals who were all waitresses in college and i remember stories of their best and worst customers. it's a tough job!

Last night I went to a new restaurant recommended by friends. It serves stir fry and since I am on WW, I was a little nervous. It turned out that I have found a new best friend! The food was delicious! You get a bowl and put in what you want, choose your spices, choose the sauce, and then choose your starch. They have brown rice, fried rice, noodles, and so on. In my bowl I put chicken, shrimp, and all kinds of fantastic vegetables. I chose a less sweetened soy sauce type sauce and put only 1/2 in the cup. You then take your bowl and cup up to the grill. I asked how much oil do they use and was told how much do you want. One spray is what I got and then chose 1 brown rice (you can take 2 of any starch) and was told that it was less than 1/2 cup! Because of the huge amount of veggies, it made a huge amount and was delicious. So keep looking because there are restaurants that will cater to those watching their weight!

Butter sauce? Way to ruin salmon! Sometimes if I'm really disciplined I'll split an entree with someone or have them pack up half of it in a to go box. Sometimes. Okay, rarely.

This is good to know since I'll be traveling all next week!!!

It may sound gross, but that's when I would have gotten a paper napkin and soaked up the butter to avoid eating it. I do this whenever we order pizza, too. I have even caught my kids doing it. You know they learn by watching us.

Sounds like we've all been there! Being polite is the key. We have a great restaurant here that has nice pasta dishes, but they always come with some sort of creamy sauce. I always ask them to substitute marinara sauce and hold any kind of cheese. It's also a good idea when ordering sandwiches to ask that all condiments come on the side so you don't get surprised when your sandwich shows up smothered in mayo!

Thanks for the tips! It's senior week and I'm going to be celebrating and eating out a lot.

For me, dining out and eating healthy when I do is a game! If I know in advance I'm eating out, I try to look at the menu online beforehand (if they have one). I narrow my options down (I'm very indecisive!)

I also plan my day around it to give myself a little leeway when I'm out, too. ;-)

I talk about the 50% Solution on my blog, too! It works wonders...

I do love your idea of putting ALL sauces on the side, though. I never thought of that! We all know that dressing on the side is a must, but other sauces... great idea! If the salmon is grilled, in your instance, it didn't really need the sauce. And if you really wanted to try it, you could dip some instead.

Thanks for sharing! Cheers~

A real challenge is a baseball game! At the AZ. D'Backs games the choices are pizza, mexican food (tamales), hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, deep fried chicken fingers and of course peanuts, popcorn, cotton candy, huge cookies etc. Other than eating before we go, not many options. I did have TCBY instead of Cold Stone Creamery.

I feel it very challenging to eat healthy when out to eat. It's not that I don't know how to eat healthy it's that I don't want to with all the other delicious menu items! One of my favorite places to eat is chili's because my husband n I get the 2 for 20 and they actually have a filling low cal dish that I enjoy!

Restaurants can be tough. So many great tips here. Last Thursday in the AZ Republic newspaper there was all kinds of great information about healthy dining out. It was interesting too because they interviewed a restaurant owner who opened his restaurant with a healthy menu and had to change it and add several less healthy options like cheeseburgers and fries to satisfy his customer's demands!

When I go out to eat, I often know what I'm going to order ahead of time and don't even open the menu which is designed to entice! And my husband and I usually share a dinner. For me it's paying to how much I eat and not just what I eat that has paid off beautifully. Here's a link to the AZ Republic articles for those interested -…

Ask for no extra salt as well as sauces on the side as you suggested. Sometimes they listen about the salt.

High Fiber Salmon Is A Tough Act In Order To Perform.

Recently I Came Across A Recipe For A High Fiber Salmon At An Internet Blog ( Apologize I do not

remember Which).

Coat The Salmon In Low Pepper Seafood Seasoning

Also Rye Seeds (Best Of Luck Finding Either Of

Oil It Lightly With Wok Oil.
Sear(Both Sides Brief).

I Am Guessing The Rye Seeds Were Supposed To

Supply The Fiber.

I disagree with Jan G... You don't have to apologize for being a "problem"... You didn't do anything wrong!! Just order the meal/dish the way you want it. Being a problem is making into a big deal. You are out to eat paying for food... You should be getting what you want and like... Then you'll likely go back!

I understand that you were frustrated by your salmon being covered in butter sauce. I understand how hard it can be to eat healthy in restaurants. However, I was kind of offended at how you judged what your family ordered. I'm assuming that being Snack Girl, you and your family eat quite healthfully most of the time, so why were you so critical that they splurged at a birthday dinner?

@Leah - I was saying NO! for me - not for them - No! hamburger for ME. I can see how it can be misconstrued - I wasn't judging them - I was listening to their choices and decided that they weren't for me.

Sorry about that!

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