It can be frustrating when you embark on your journey to better health to find good options when eating out. Restaurants tend to sacrifice health for flavor. Foods then become high in various combinations of fat, sugar and salt. As a result, our pallets have become accustomed to this and worldwide, health has suffered. For the sake of good health we have to become more intentional about what we put into our bodies.
The good news is that it is becoming easier to find healthy meal options at restaurants. Many restaurants are now adding vegan or vegetarian options to their menus. Do not hesitate to ask for these options if you don’t readily spot them on the menu. Most restaurants will accommodate you. However, note that vegan options do not always equate to health. For example, fries may be vegan but they are most definitely not healthy if they are fried and not baked. Many vegan options are sometimes still prepared in unhealthy ways leading to high calorie foods that also cause inflammation in the body. So with that being said, here are some tips when eating out.
- Be careful with the dressings. You should avoid the use of ranch dressing, as ranch dressing is high in fat (Read until the end for my healthier version of Caesar dressing). If you decide to have salad dressing, use a light Italian or vinaigrette dressing and remember to limit the amount that you pour on the salad.
- Avoid the toppings of bacon, cheese and croutons. These are high in calories and saturated fat, and you do not want to convert a healthy salad into a meal that will increase your risk of chronic disease.
- Top your salad with a generous amount of beans, peas, nuts, and seeds and you will have a complete meal that is filled with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, proteins, good fats and carbohydrates. This type of salad will not only satisfy your hunger but protect you from overeating and fill you for a longer period.
Italian menus are usually great options; however, you must take care, as many of the dishes are prepared with cheese and large amounts of oil. See the following tips to make your Italian meal healthier.
- Ask for whole wheat pasta
- Use vegetables in the pasta
- Substitute marinara sauce for Alfredo sauce
- Add to your order a bowl of minestrone soup with vegetable broth.
If you are dining at a Mexican restaurant:
- Be sure to ask if the meals are prepared with lard; this is pork fat, a form of saturated fat that is not good for your overall health. Once you have clarified this, here are some great options: bean burritos, rice and beans with chopped lettuce and tomato on the side, and bean enchiladas.
- Be careful with the sauce (usually enchiladas are topped with cheese sauce). Tamales made from vegetables or beans and tacos made with potatoes or beans are also good options.
It is very easy to find healthy vegan options in an Asian restaurant. However, the danger is the amount of oil and possibly sugar used in these menus. Some helpful tips are to:
- Choose menu items with tofu and vegetables
- Be cautious with the heavy sweet sauces
- Fill up your plate with vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and immature legumes such as snow peas and string beans.
I enjoy dining at Indian restaurants. Be sure to ask for vegan options, as many of these dishes are made with dairy products, such as yogurt or cream. Some great options are chickpea curry, eggplant curry, lentil soup and vegetable rice.
Caesar Salad Dressing
½ cup cashew nuts
1 tablespoon tahini
½ cup nut milk, unsweetened
3 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp Mrs. Dash
½ tsp salt to taste
In a high speed blender, blend cashews and milk until smooth. Add the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy!