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Tips on Ordering Healthy at Restaurants

Dining Out Is In As Tax Cuts Lift Americans' Restaurant Visits
Photo courtesy of Google Images

No matter what your favorite restaurant serves, you can still practice healthy dining.

Cleveland Clinic Sports Nutritionist, Katherine Patton, MEd, RD, LD, CSSD, says regardless of the restaurant, it’s important to watch your portions and look for balance in your meals. She recommends avoiding all-you-can-eat buffets, where it’s all too tempting to go back for another slab of ham or more scalloped potatoes.

“I recommend using the plate method — make half your plate full of vegetables, ¼ lean protein-chicken, turkey, fish, beef or pork tenderloin, or legumes, and ¼ plate whole grain starch or complex carbohydrate like whole wheat pasta or tortilla, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and baked, red skin or sweet potato,” she says.

Here are some of her tips for ordering at specific types of restaurants:

Italian restaurants

  • Choose pasta with red sauce
  • Avoid sausage in sauces
  • Skip high-calorie dishes loaded with creamy sauces or extra cheese, such as alfredo, lasagna and carbonara
  • Limit buttered garlic bread

Mexican restaurants

  • Don’t fill up on chips and salsa before the meal
  • Choose fajitas or other grilled items
  • Avoid cheesy or deep-fried entrees
  • Limit sour cream and guacamole. Guacamole is a source of healthy monounsaturated fat, but too much still means too many calories

Asian eateries

  • Avoid egg rolls, wontons and other deep-fried items
  • Ask for broth or stock to be used to cook the meal, not oil
  • Limit sweet and sour items, and egg drop soups
  • Choose brown or steamed rice over fried rice


  • Try leaner cuts like sirloin, filet, flank or London broil
  • Take a 6-ounce portion over a 16-ouncer
  • With potatoes, order sour cream and butter on the side or choose a sweet potato
  • Eat just one piece of bread before the meal


  • Choose thin crust over deep-dish pizza
  • Choose veggie toppings
  • Request half the cheese
  • Try leaner meat toppings like chicken, ham or Canadian bacon
  • Put meat on only half the pizza

Fast food places

  • Choose grilled chicken or broiled burgers
  • Limit cheese and bacon
  • Avoid fries
  • Don’t super-size portions
  • Choose salads with grilled chicken and go easy on the dressing
  • Avoid salads with a lot of mayo (tuna salad) or lots of calories (pasta salad)

Restaurants know customer service is important. Don’t hesitate to ask for meals to be prepared the way you want them.

Story provided by the Family Health Team of the Cleveland Clinic

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