You’re stuck in a restaurant that you didn’t want to go to in the first place. One look at the menu and you know this will be a major cheat meal-fried chicken, ribs, steak and potatoes, with not a mention of a vegetable in sight!
I’ve experienced this little scenario many times before, I visit my relatives from New York about once a month, and whenever we eat out, they always choose to go to either a chain steakhouse or a Chinese restaurant.
So, over the years, I’ve developed some techniques to staying healthy when eating out. I think these tips can be applied to many different scenarios, like if your friends all decide to order takeout from a restaurant that you know does not have healthy food, or if you are at a fast food restaurant because you have no time to sit down and eat a slow meal.
Also, I just want to note that I am pescatarian, but these tips can definitely apply to vegetarians, vegans, or just health-conscious individuals.
1.) Look at the salad options. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but the salad might be your best bet to eating a plant-based meal. If the salad has an element that you would prefer not to have, just ask for it to be removed or replaced. Since you are still paying for that element of the dish, you could just give it to the people dining with you.
2.) Sides are your best friend. I’ve been to steakhouses that offer no vegetable dish at all. Even the salads contain some kind of meat, whether that be chicken or steak. However, I can guarantee you that you’ll find at least one plant based option among the sides. Take this menu from Outback Steakhouse for example. All of the sides are plant based (with the exception of the mac and cheese). You can also usually make potatoes healthier by asking for no toppings (getting rid of fatty sour cream) and just add salt and pepper to your taste. You could also ask for condiments on the side, so instead of the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sugar and Butter that is on the menu, you could add these two ingredients to your liking.
If none of the main dishes are speaking to you, you can order solely sides, or a combination of appetizers and sides.
3.) Your waiter is your best friend. As I’ve stated before, you can always ask for an ingredient to be removed, replaced, or put on the side. Your waiter or the cashier is your go-to person for making these requests. One time, I went to TGI Friday’s with my family because it was the only restaurant open at the time we wanted dinner. With the exception of a garden salad, there was not a single non-meat item on the menu. I didn’t really want to have the garden salad because it was just lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. So instead, I ordered the mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken, and asked for all of the chicken to be replaced with broccoli.
4.) When eating a family-style meal, take charge of ordering food. When you are eating with a large group of people (like my extended family, with 13 people) it’s easy to engage in side conversations while the ordering is occurring. There have been many times where other people have ordered, and as a result, I may only have one dish that I can eat as a pescatarian, or as a healthy person in general! So, if you are in charge of ordering the food, you can order what you want to eat because anyways, it will benefit the group to have at least one or two healthy dishes on the table.
So I hope these tips will help you when ordering food! Fast food doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, and steakhouses don’t always have to mean steak. Happy eating 🙂