Healthiest Restaurant Foods – How To Choose A Healthy Restaurant

Healthiest Restaurant Foods – How To Choose A Healthy Restaurant
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


This past weekend, Phil and I went out for dinner to celebrate the release of his new book on organic gardening. We rarely go out to eat, for a few reasons. The main one for me is that it’s really difficult to find the healthiest restaurant foods.

I have no control over what ingredients are used and in what quantities. I think about oil particularly, but also things like white flour, sugar, salt, MSG.

Sometimes, you just have to let go and forget about these things. When you only do it occasionally, a healthy body can take care of them and stay balanced. But there are some simple things you can do to choose the healthiest restaurant foods you can. The first thing to consider is that when you have a choice of where you’ll eat, you can pick a restaurant that makes relatively healthy food.

Since I’ve been listening to the audio book of Morgan Spurlock’s Don’t Eat This Book on my morning runs this past week, I have the unhealthiness of fast food tugging on my brain especially hard. He gave some stats on the calorie and fat content of some of the major fast food and casual dining chains that was just plain scary.

He mentioned The Outback Steakhouse, which is a place I would only consider going to if I was dragged there. They definitely don’t have the healthiest restaurant foods around, let alone many vegan or vegetarian options. I checked their online nutritional information, and got a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

I looked at their hamburger, with no cheese, and a side house salad with a mustard vinaigrette. That meal is 1300 calories – enough for an entire day for some people! And it gives you 94 grams of fat, which is about twice as much as a full day’s fat intake.

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The funny thing is, if you replace the salad with french fries it goes down to 1160 calories and 29.5 grams of fat, although that doesn’t include ketchup. That does NOT mean you should pick french fries over a salad, it just means that you need to be careful about which dressing you choose. There’s also probably cheese and who knows what else on the salad. The menu doesn’t specify for the side salad.

One chain restaurant that gave a listing of the vegetarian options, with notes on which of those contained dairy, eggs or honey, was Macaroni Grill. If I were looking for the healthiest restaurant foods there, I’d probably order a fresh green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and pasta with pomodoro sauce, grape tomatoes, broccoli and roasted garlic. That meal would get to a total of 845 calories.

That’s still a lot of food, which is why I always look at a plate in a restaurant and plan on eating only half of it. Saving half of the pasta for dinner the next night, I’d be getting 583 calories, but I’d probably also share the salad with Phil (it doesn’t seem like it’s a side salad) so 423 calories.

That doesn’t include any bread before the meal, or any sodas. Macaroni Grill is also one of the few restaurants I looked at that posts nutritional information for all of their drinks – including alcoholic ones. Adding a raspberry Italian soda to my meal would add 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar.

Rather than a chain restaurant, Phil and I picked a place that we’ve walked by a few times on our way to MEC (a camping and sporting goods type store in Canada) that has the slogan ‘Healthy, Organic, Fresh’ painted on its window. That was a good start, and then while waiting to get into the washroom I admired their stock of Eden Organic canned beans, Spectrum organic oils and vinegars and all of the other organic foods I buy myself.

(For anyone in Ottawa, or planning to visit Ottawa, or just plain curious, the restaurant we went to was called The Table.)

The food is served as a buffet, and is fairly simple in terms of ingredients but there were lots of fun options like a broccoli stem salad and a quinoa tabbouleh. I always look for lots of vegetables in choosing the healthiest restaurant foods. The great part is that rather than being an all-you-can-eat buffet, which always encourages eating more to get your money’s worth no matter how much you try to resist thinking that way, they do a pay-by-weight system.

What’s your pick where you live to find the healthiest restaurant foods?


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