It can be difficult to make healthy choices while letting a restaurant serve you. Whether you’re on a program like Weight Watchers or are just trying to eat cleaner and healthier, here are a few tips to help you on your wellness journey!
Many dishes at restaurants have hidden elements that make them much more fattening than they may appear. If you’re finding it difficult to pick healthy choices (or maybe you’re unsure of what really is healthy), this guide is for you.
Surprisingly Fattening Foods: What to Avoid
What could be wrong with a salad, right? Then you go into the Weight Watchers app and see that a Chicken Caesar Salad is over half of your daily points! Why? I’m here to break down all the elements and questions.
Butter Vs. Oil
Keywords that are red flags: Creamy, Cream of, Buttery, Crispy, Pan-fried, Breaded, or even Sautéed.
First off, avoid the butter. Olive oil is better! As living in Italy taught me, using Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the healthiest ways to cook, and if you need something to dip your bread in, it’s less fattening than butter. It’s considered a healthy fat (like avocado)!
Let’s say you’re just dying for a pasta dish: Let’s pick your sauce.
No food is bad for you, okay? Don’t let diet culture destroy your hopes of ever eating carbs again. You can still eat pasta! For sauces, avoid alfredo. Go light on the cheese and heavy cream. A traditional marinara sauce is your best option for low calories and fat.
This can also go for pizzas. Traditional (Italian-style!) tomato sauce is actually healthy. It’s filled with fresh ingredients, antioxidants, and herbs and spices. Did you know oregano can contribute to weight loss because it boosts your metabolism? Oregano also has great antibacterial properties that can improve the immune system.
Speaking of sauces, what about cheese?
While cheese is an excellent source of calcium, protein and probiotics, too much of it can be fattening. Cheese is high in saturated fat and salt. Combined with heavy cream and other fats for a pasta sauce or soup, the calories can add up. Eat in moderation.
Okay, but what about salad dressings?
Store-bought dressings are loaded with fat, calories, and added sugars. You’re better off making your own, if you’re up for it. Try using olive oil and household spices, such as salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and adding vegetables or fruits on top.
Some healthy dressings that I love include Annie’s, such as their organic olive oil vinaigrette, and Primal Kitchen, which is made with avocado oil. The worst? Hidden Valley Ranch. Yep. That was a bit sad to see the nutrition label.
At restaurants, you’ll find that many of the salad dressings are either creamy or full of sugar, such as vinaigrettes and fruity sauces. Even honey mustard can be extremely high in sugar. The most unhealthy fast-food salad? A caesar salad from McDonald’s actually has more calories in it than a Big Mac (and you should see the fat count).
When ordering a dinner, there are a few easy ways to pick your meal – if you eat meat.
Boneless chicken breast is a great option. The way it’s prepared is always an important part of the equation. Grilled or broiled chicken is much better than fried, breaded or crispy.
While it’s not suggested to eat red meat so often, steak can be a much healthier alternative to almost every other menu item when you’re eating out. A steak dinner (hold the buttered corn and loaded mashed potatoes) can be a great option! Sirloin on the WW app is only 3-6 points, depending on the size.
Preparation is a big part of this, though. Grilled chicken and turkey are great options! Can I sub my crispy chicken for grilled in that wrap?
So What DO I Order?
Let’s walk through your dinner. That’s the most difficult meal to tackle when eating out, in my opinion.
Appetizer: Avoid chips and breads, which are loaded with carbs and even added sugars. Choose olive oil over butter with any bread. Good options include shrimp, vegetable soups, lightly breaded chicken wings or an Italian appetizer board, just go light on the cheese and crackers.
Main Course: When it comes to ordering, try to fill your plate with vegetables, fruits or healthy grains. These could include any zero-point foods on WW. Avoid heavy, rich foods that are full of cheese, sauces, or oil.
Mexican food is an easy one to tackle, since rice isn’t too bad for you depending on how it’s cooked and what is added to it (brown is better than white rice, too). Top it off with vegetables and a meat or beans (light on the cheese and sour cream) and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal. Italian can be difficult because it’s so Americanized here, like any other cuisine really. If you’re at an authentic restaurant though, you may be in luck. The key is to go light on the high-starch and carbs (pasta bowls, bread), cheese, cream, anything fried or greasy. Go grilled!
Dessert: It isn’t always off the table. If you need something sweet, go for a sorbet if they have it – or share something with a friend! Fruit is also a great, simple option that’s sweet but much healthier than processed foods. Just maybe don’t tackle that entire deep-dish cookie pie if you’re sticking to a diet.
This is the biggest key: portion size.
When eating out, restaurants love to fill your plates with 2 or sometimes 3 or more servings of food.
When you first get your plate, evaluate it. Cut it in half. Be mindful of how much is there to start, and be mindful of when you’re starting to feel full. Listen to your body!
Ever since I was told this in elementary school, I always tell myself: Your body doesn’t know you’re full until 20 minutes after you already are. This is why it’s so easy to overeat! Take it slow – the Italian way.
Most Importantly, Enjoy Yourself
Worst comes to worst and there’s nothing “healthy” that pleases you on the menu, there is no shame in getting something you actually like.
If you’re on a program such as Weight Watchers, think about this. What’s the point in wasting the rest of your points on something you don’t even really want? You might as well use the rest up (and then some from the weekly points where necessary) on something that satisfies you.
There really is no “bad” food. Nutrients are good. Feed your body what it needs to fuel you. It’s all about the moderation.
So what’s all this about a “healthy” pizza?
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