How To Eat Healthy Traveling – Part Two, Dining Out

Last week I shared some of my travel secrets on how I manage to . This week I’m going to focus on eating away from home again – but this time more in the dining out arena. So this applies whether you are traveling as last week, or just going out for dinner in your own home town.

eat healthy dining out

Restaurant Selection

The first and most important thing to me when dining out is restaurant selection. Whether or not you will be successful at eating healthy while out on the town is dependent on what restaurant you pick and the choices they offer.

Look Over The Menu Online

In this age of internet it is so easy and extremely helpful to go online and do some research before making any reservations. I look for reviews of local restaurants in local health conscious publications and on online restaurant databases. Even Facebook has a review application you can join and see what others recommend at home and abroad.

Look the Menu Over For Options

Okay, so you’ve found some local restaurant’s web sites – now what you say? Look through the menu at the options presented.

  • Look for vegetarian options or substitutions? Some places will offer tofu or seitan (wheat gluten made to look and taste like meat, sort of) options in place of meat.
  • Be cautious of things on the menu that is either deep fried, swimming in butter or cream sauce, or loaded up on simple carbs like pasta and bread. Stay away from ALL of the above!
  • Look for dishes that have loads of vegetables, salads with no cheese or meat, grilled fish or even sushi choices.

Ask About Substitutions

Once I’ve picked a few choices, I discuss with Rob and we make a reservation. If I’m still not sure about a place, I’ll ask if they allow me to make substitutions – things like, can I have more vegetables instead of the baked potato and sour cream. We personally like to patronize independently owned and operated restaurants rather than the big chains. We find them more quaint, and usually far more accommodating to dietary requests. Once we find a place we like – we usually go back often.

At the restaurant here are some things to avoid and to choose:

Things To Avoid

  • anything deep fried
  • anything with a cream sauce including white creamy soups. Even things like carrot soup or butternut squash soup often have things like heavy cream (heavy on the fat!) in them – if in doubt don’t be afraid to ask what’s in it. If you’re too embarassed tell them you have a dairy allergy. They’ll tell you for sure cause they don’t want your lips to puff up and sue them if they don’t tell you and you have a reaction. My cousin does it all the time with shrimp – she tells the staff she’s allergic, which can be pretty serious – in reality she just doesn’t like them.
  • dishes heavy on the meat content, low on the veggie content. Make sure if you do have meat you choose a lean chicken or fish dish – and the plate still have more veggies on it than meat. Not a 16 oz. steak and one little potato.
  • cheese anything, ask them to hold it if they put it on top
  • Sour cream or any dip that has it in it – ask if you think there might be. If you really want to eat it, just put it right on your hips and your arteries. Think again – your body will thank you!
  • pasta
  • bread and things heavy on the bread content like a giant sandwichy thing
  • coffee – but if you must have it, skip the cream and sugar
  • alcohol – but if you must, choose a glass of wine or limit to one drink with NO pop
  • dessert of any kind, even fruit (fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach, if eaten after a meal it can ferment and cause upset or other issues) If you think you might want dessert to finish – get an appetizer instead, or have a salad and a main or share both with your dining partner
  • POP!!!
  • Putting salt on anything – use pepper

Good choices

  • hummus and vegetables to dip in it, or pita bread
  • Asian restaurants – they often have lots of tofu or veggie dishes to choose from
  • Salad – hold the cheese and the croutons – ask for a vinaigrette and if they don’t have one, ask for 1/2 a lime and just squeeze that on and use it as dressing. Remember to skip the creamy dressings.
  • Stir fries are usually good choices, get brown rice on the side if it’s an option (or white rice if that’s the only choice)
  • Grilled fish or chicken breast
  • A Veggie burger – hold the cheese, mayo and bun. Ask for a nice mustard on it and lots of veggies like lettuce, onion, tomatoes, sprouts if they got ’em, etc.
  • Bean dishes like curried chick peas, or a black bean chili – hold the cheese and sour cream (getting the idea here?!)
  • Lentil loaf
  • Vegetable soup
  • Sharing a large plate if you aren’t that hungry. Or share two appetizers and try more things.
  • Stuffed peppers

Getting some ideas?

Ask For What You Want

Like I said, don’t be afraid to ask what’s in things, or how they are prepared. You’re paying for it after all, why not get what you want, how you want it. I’m sure you’ve seen the scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” right? The one where she orders and asks for this on the side if this, but not if that, etc, etc. Harry thinks she’s being difficult and she just says “Well, I like it how I like it” and that was that. Go Sally, you rock girlfriend! Of course she did go on to act out the famous fake orgasm during dessert too. Gotta love it!

Just to give you all some ideas, here are the web sites of some of our favorite restaurants in Edmonton. We frequent all of these places and rotate between them depending on our mood. Find some in your area you like and stick with them. If friends ask you out to dinner – suggest they try a new place and come to one of your choices. Show them how good eatin’ is done!

Matahari Asian Fusion
Tropika Malaysian Restaurant
Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant
***Blue Plate Diner*** – our current fave! (104st just north of Jasper Ave)
4th and Vine Wine Bar and Bistro

Eating healthy while dining out can be as simple as doing some online research of the restaurant’s menu and making a good choice before you even leave the house. Then, make nice with the staff, ask about substitutions, and avoid non-nutritious foods. Healthy eating while dining out isn’t a chore – it’s simply a matter of perspective.

Until next time – be well and be happy!

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  1. Hubby and I went to the Blue Plate Diner today for lunch and found out the brunch is served until 1:00 PM. We had a fantastic brunch. We will try the other suggestions and go back to the Blue Plate for dinner or lunch!

    I used many of your suggestions when I went away.. Travel safe and enjoy the beauty of the Okanagan..

    PS Rob, go the Mission Hill if you have the opportunity!

  2. Good advice!

    I always try to make healthy substitutions when ordering out. Just today I ordered my taco salad w/grilled chicken, extra lettuce and plain black beans instead of the refried beans. Granted, I probably drove the waiter crazy, but it came out right!

  3. I think its great to go for healthy substitutions when eating out, but it is not always possible. But when this is the case I think its great to just think of the meal as a one off treat, to be enjoyed with no guilt. As long as you get back on track the next day it is all good. however on a holiday it is too easy to a heap of bad days in a row, so then you really need to use the great advice in this article

  4. Thanks Christina – we weren’t really in the Okanagan though, we went through to Squamish which is between Vancouver and Whistler. Was an amazing week.

  5. I too love the Kelowna area
    My family live there so We go a lot.

    On thing I want to say about eating out
    We are all tempted One of the ways to stay away from the temptation of Coffee late in the afternoon is to carry your own alternatives.
    After you order and eat your meal The waiters don’t mind if you ask for hot water and use your own whatever
    Yesterday I did not do this and it cost me dearly
    I was up until 3am from the coffee I had at 3pm.
    I made the most of it Ha ha
    Wow never again

  6. I wish I was over that way. Am from Australia but did a season at Big White Ski resort a few years back, which is right next to Kelowna! Such a beautiful place. Would love to go back as had such a great time!

  7. Great post as many people believe it is impossible to eat healthy while eating out. Looking at the menu and limiting your options should be one of the first steps as many things are big no no. Great post so keep it up.

  8. I’ve never been to a restaurant that did not have grilled chicked caesar salad on the menu–seriously, even McDonalds has it! Every place you go will have a salad of some type, just pick the dressing you want to go with depending on your diet and make sure you’ve got some protein in there and you’ll be fine.

  9. @Yankee: I don’t necessarily agree that by making that choice it is a good one. Many caesar salads have bacon bits, or even worse fake ones on them – and cheese, and they always have that creamy dressing. ALL of those things will not support health and/or weight loss they are too high in the bad kind of fats.

    I would indeed choose a salad but if they didn’t have a balsamic vinaigrette or a simple oil/vinegar option I’d likely just ask for a lime and squeeze that on it. YES salad is healthy – but most pre made dressings are NOT. Besides all the fat in them, most also contain MSG and loads of sugar.

    As for getting your protein – just eating the lettuce will get you that, are you aware of that? Vegetables have protein. How do you think cows get so big – and they eat no meat.

  10. Another thing to do is to look at the size of the portion and decide of how much of it you will eat. If the portion size is too big see if it’s possible to take the leftovers home to eat the next day.

    Another thing I do if I know I’m going out to a restaurant is to go easy on what I eat the day before and the day after. I don’t mean that I skip meals but I’m ultra careful about the choices I make and increase my exercises the next day.

    The whole point of eating out is to enjoy it and not spend the whole time feeling guilty.

  11. Thanks for all of the useful information! Eating out is so difficult when you are trying to lose weight! The smell coming from the kitchen is enough to do me in, not to mention what the people around me are eating. I think it would be a great help to know what to expect BEFORE you get there and have your meal planned out ahead of time. It also gives you time to convince your brain that your tummy doesn’t need the other stuff!

  12. Hi there

    I was wondering if i could possible use the image above of the couple eating a meal for my website & possible advertising? My website is not about dieting and we are based in South Wales UK.

    Many thanks for your time


  13. we can’t give you permission to use that photo, we bought it from a stock photo agency – you need to go pay for it yourself, we do not have copyright for this image.

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