I know, you’ve been taught to go green when dining out. Lower in calories, lower in fat, and just healthier than ordering that burger and fries.
This isn’t always the case though and I am about to tell you why. I have included my top picks for why ordering a salad at a restaurant is not always the healthiest option. It can be hard when dining out to find healthy options, so you aren’t wrecking your nice diet plan. You may think that a salad is the safest bet, and most people who say they are dieting, go straight to the salads at restaurants.
Sadly, it’s not always best to pick from the green section of the menu. I know it’s sometimes hard to find “healthy” at the American favorite restaurants like Red Robin, Applebees, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, The Cheesecake Factory, etc. I used to think, there’s nothing here for me. When friends or family would want to meet at these places, I would dread it because what was I going to order that wasn’t go to clog my arteries or be filled with trans fat?
Before giving you my recommendations at places like this, I give you my top 5 reasons to think twice before ordering the plate of mixed greens.
- NOT the Healthiest Dish on the Menu: Yep it’s true. It’s sad when most of the salads on the menu, aren’t considered “lighter fare,”(a common designation now at most restaurants to help patrons order healthier). You are better off with a grilled chicken and streamed vegetables or baked potato. A typical salad can come in at 1300 calories and 84 grams of fat, because of the toppings and dressing.
- Organically Grown Greens are typically NOT Used: This increases the pesticide, insecticide and preservative content, especially when most restaurants use the iceberg lettuce bag mix. We’ve been told and lead to believe that a side salad is a safe bet, but actually it’s not. The lettuce is contaminated with toxins and potential cancer causing toxins, as well as no nutritional value in the lettuce (since iceberg is typically used). As far as toxins, you are really no better off than fries, and if you chose a creamy, fat laden dressing your calorie content is stacking up to fries. Iceberg lettuce is 98% water, you’re getting ripped off when your order a $10 salad served with iceberg lettuce.
- Salads Typically have Fat Laden Dressings: And a lot of it!! Chefs will put on more than a serving size of dressing on your salad. The lettuce is drenched in high sugar, high fats (and not the healthy fats) and high calorie dressing. Sneaky additives can be found in these dressings as well. And house made dressings are typically laden with sugars.
- Fried Toppings and Excess Cheese: So many times salads will have fried chicken or shrimp as a topping, with loads of cheese. These are high in fat and calories, and we already know fried foods should be avoided as much as possible. In fact, there’s only one lighter fare option in the salads at Applebees.
- E Coli is a Risk and Other Bacteria’s: Especially if your salad is made with spinach. Cheap produce is used at restaurants or at least in most chain restaurants and safe food handling is not always obtainable. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to skip washing the salads, so it’s swimming in bacteria.
My tips for staying healthy at restaurants:
- If you do order a salad, order dressing on the side, no fried toppings and chose a vinaigrette or balsamic dressing or just ask for olive oil and lemon.
- Order from the sides menu. Sides like a baked potato without the sour cream and bacon bits, steamed vegetables, rice, minestrone soups or brothy soups, and even sweet potato fries are better options.
- Look for fresh organic greens on the menu or ask your server if the greens are organic.
- Order grilled dishes, such as grilled chicken or salmon. The veggie burger is a great option, and even better sans bun.
- Ask for the server to hold the cheese or go light on the cheese.
- Order salads with beans and grilled meats.
- Avoid cheesy pastas, and instead opt for marinara sauce, or oil based sauces if possible.
- Lighter Fare Options – these are common at restaurants now and I would chose from this part of the menu. They are also adding calorie content on menus to help make better, healthier choices (and this helps to see how many calories are actually in your salad).
- Don’t order a diet soda
- Ask for water, and if you get a lemon ask for it on the side (lemons are contaminated with bacteria at most restaurants according to research, because the peel isn’t washed and is handled with hands)
- Avoid creamy soups and greasy burgers
- Don’t go for the specials, chef’s choice or most popular dishes – these dishes are typically high in calories and fat, probably why they are the most liked!!
- Ask how the food was prepared
- Ask for double the grilled vegetables
- Ask to box half of the meal before bringing it out, since restaurants are notorious for larger than normal portion sizes and the fare is higher in calories and fat.
With all that being said, do live a little!! Sometimes it’s okay to splurge, so get the burger and fries, just know it’s a lot of calories, and don’t make it a habit.
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be Fit
What are your tips for dining out?