Ask this question and you’re going to get a hundred different answers. For Baby Boomers, healthy food is all about counting calories. For Millennials, it’s more about food being “fresh, less processed and with fewer artificial ingredients,” according to a Morgan Stanley report. But it’s not always as simple as splitting it down by age group.

For some, a healthy menu may be gluten-free. For others, it would be low-carb options and/or high-protein. Organic foods and foods without preservatives is also considered to be healthy by some. Small portions (“portion control”) is healthy for others. Some guests might just be happy knowing what their meal’s calorie total is while others would want a carb/protein/fat macro breakdown. In short: there’s a ton of wiggle room.

That “blessing” is also the problem. Health food is so vague that you can go anywhere with it. Your best bet is to poll what a “healthy menu” means to your guests and go from there. Whatever you decide, be sure to be pretty upfront about what your health menu items include and don’t include.

Where to start?

Like with all big projects, start small. We suggest looking at your current menu and trying to figure out what the calorie information and macro breakdown is for each item.

What’s considered a healthy calorie/macro is way too individualized to give strong guidelines, but if you a dish that’s getting near 100g of carbs or 60g of fat, then it’s going to raise some eyebrows for sure. But listing that info on your menu will help your guests make informed purchasing decisions.

We also recommend closely tracking how this information changes sales patterns. Does calorie/macro info boost the sales of some dishes and lower others? What’s the margin on those items, etc.? A little restaurant sales & data analytics can go a long way. Depending on your results, you can pick and choose what items to give that info about.

Lauren Ahn

You probably think of salad as the ultimate health food, but a recent article in The Washington Post suggests it’s not all its cracked up to be — and not just because many restaurant salads contain just as many calories as the burger you’d rather be eating.

“The biggest thing wrong with salad is lettuce,” writes Tamar Haspel in the Post. Haspel goes on to argue that lettuce, which is the base of most healthy-sounding salads, is nutritionally irrelevant because it contains way more water than vitamins, minerals, and calories. In other words, lettuce salads are just a vehicle to shovel croutons, cheese, and loads of dressing into your mouth — without contributing much to your dietary needs.

That means even homemade salads may not be as healthy as you think — so it should go without saying that you’re no better off eating out.

“Items labeled ‘salad’ at chain restaurants are often as bad, if not worse, than pastas or sandwiches or burgers when it comes to calories,” Haspel continues — and he’s completely right, according to Georgie Fear, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian and the author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. Luckily, popular chain restaurants — from Burger King and McDonalds to Cracker Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory — all serve perfectly healthy salad-alternatives that are dense in nutrients.

So when you want to eat healthy – healthier than a salad — try one of Fear’s non-salad recommendations:

1. Starbucks: Spinach, Egg White and Feta Wrap

Starbucks/Lauren Ahn

Not only is this wrap is served hot — meaning it automatically beats a cold Bistro Box on a chilly day or when you’re up against aggressive A.C.— but it contains whole grains, has a great mix of protein, fats, and carbs, packs 6 grams of filling fiber, and sneaks in some veggies too. For a heartier meal, just order two.

2. Wendy’s: Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich + a Small Chili

Wendy’s/Lauren Ahn

The stats on the sandwich are very reasonable without modifying any of the toppings: It has a respectable 8 grams of fat and 35 grams of protein. To fill out your meal, add a small chili, which delivers iron, extra protein, and fiber to really fill you up.

3. Applebee’s: Napa Chicken and Portobellos

Applebee’s/Lauren Ahn

Applebee’s has a whole menu full of dishes under 600 calories — but some of the protein portions seem too small to satisfy. This chicken dish is the exception with a whopping 50 grams of protein and a nutritious mix of vegetables that trumps a measly pile of lettuce. If you’re in the mood for steak, the pepper-crusted sirloin with whole grains is another good choice (it just contains less protein).

4. Chipotle: Burrito Bowl With Chicken, Beans, Fajita Vegetables, Lettuce, Tomato Salsa, and Half a Portion of Guacamole

Chipotle/Lauren Ahn

Like many registered dietitians who are all, “Burrito bowl or bust!”, Fear prefers Chipotle bowls to burritos. Between the chicken, beans, and veggies in the combo above, there’s plenty of protein, fiber, and nutrients. As for healthy fat, guacamole is about the best you can get: It contains more monounsaturated fat and less saturated fat than cheese or sour cream. Still, the typical 4-ounce serving contains 22 grams of fat with more calories than cheese and sour cream combined! So Fear sticks to a half portion.

5. Panera Bread: Smoked Turkey Sandwich With Cheddar Cheese on Whole Wheat Bread + Apple

Panera Bread/Lauren Ahn

While Panera’s flatbreads provide tasty low-calorie options, Fear suggests going for a more substantial sandwich with more protein so you don’t get hungry again soon after your meal. She recommends the smoked turkey, specially ordered with whole wheat bread (for extra nutrients), a slice of cheese for satiating fat, and an apple on the side.

6. McDonalds: 2 Egg White Delight McMuffins

McDonald’s/Lauren Ahn

The Egg White Delight McMuffin is the best option on this menu any time of day — even if you need two to fill up. You get Canadian bacon and melted cheese — which already makes the option a billion times more appealing than a lousy salad. What this sandwich lacks in fruits and vegetables, it makes up for in protein. To compensate, just go heavy on the produce at your next meal.

7. Burger King: Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich

Burger King/Lauren Ahn

This is your best option for a high-protein, relatively low-fat meal at Burger King — particularly if you hold the mayo. Like the meal options at McDonald’s, this sandwich contains few veggies, so it’s not the world’s most balanced meal. But it still beats a burger and fries for healthy eaters with salad fatigue.

8. California Pizza Kitchen: Half a Roasted-Artichoke-and-Spinach Thin Crust Pizza With Chicken

California Pizza Kitchen/Lauren Ahn

When eating at CPK, it’s a crime not to order the pizza — even though they’re all relatively high in calories. The good news: A half pizza (which is plenty of food) makes a perfectly reasonable meal. Fear’s pizza pick contains lots of veggies with added chicken to amp up the protein. Even though whole grain crust is available, it adds 10 grams of fat without tons more fiber, so just stick with the original.

9. Chili’s Grill & Bar: Margarita Grilled Chicken With Steamed Broccoli (Sub for Rice)

Chili’s/Lauren Ahn

Fear is a huge fan of this dish — she loves the taste. She swaps the rice for steamed broccoli to get some green stuff (and extra nutrients) into the mix.

10. The Cheesecake Factory: SkinnyLicious Grilled Salmon

The Cheesecake Factory/ Lauren Ahn

Seafood is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so any grilled fish option with a couple of green veggie sides will always be your best bet on this menu. Why? Fish that’s fried or prepared in sauce could contain hidden fats. (The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t share its meals’ total fat content.) As for the green veggies: Other sides like mashed potatoes can contain more than 500 calories!

11. Olive Garden: Citrus Chicken Sorrento

Olive Garden/Lauren Ahn

With seasoned vegetables and fiber-packed artichokes as sides, this pick is a no-brainer.

12. Ruby Tuesday: Top Sirloin Steak + Grilled Zucchini + Rice Pilaf

Ruby Tuesday/Lauren Ahn

Sirloin steak is Ruby Tuesday’s leanest cut of meat, and the dish has even less fat when you ask for it to be prepared without the seasoned butter that’s typically used. Grilled zucchini, steamed broccoli, green beans, or roasted spaghetti squash all make nutritious sides. Two veggies (or one veggie and a starchy side such as rice pilaf) make a well-rounded meal.

13. T.G.I. Friday’s: Sizzling Chicken and Spinach

T.G.I. Friday’s/Lauren Ahn

Tasty chicken atop spinach with yellow squash and onions, with a tomato and mozzarella salad on the side? Yes, please. This dish is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates (just like a salad!), so it’s really a perfect pick. (And if you’re tired of chicken? The sizzling sirloin and spinach is nearly identical in nutrition, offering just as much protein with just a few more grams of fat.)

14. Cracker Barrel: The Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken Breast + Baked Sweet Potato + Steamed Veggies

Cracker Barrel/Lauren Ahn

You can only eat grilled chicken so many ways, so this crunchy-coated baked option is extra-interesting. It comes with two sides: A baked sweet potato and steamed vegetables really round out the meal.

15. Denny’s: Fit Fare Loaded Egg-White Veggie Omelette With Fruit and an English Muffin

Denny’s/Lauren Ahn

This dish hits every food group: It’s got lean protein from the egg whites, vegetables, fruit, carbs, and fat (from the Swiss cheese) for flavor. It’s a balanced meal that contains zero salad — and won’t end in the maple syrup-induced food coma you’d get from eating classic Denny’s fare like pancakes.

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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.

Having healthy, affordable meal options delivered is a great way to quickly get back on track after Mardi Gras. Some believe eating healthy is expensive and time-consuming, but not with UberEATS.

We created a list of healthy restaurants in New Orleans available on UberEATS all with meal options you can get delivered for under $20. Eating well doesn’t have to be a struggle anymore. Check out our top healthy picks below:

Healthy Affordable Meal Options on UberEATS

City Greens (salads, wraps, pressed juices, vegan, gluten-free) – Available daily 11am – 9pm

We recommend the BBQ Chicken Wrap, the Southwest Salad or the 24 Carrot Gold juice.

Raw Republic Juice (cold-pressed juices, vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free) – Available daily 7am – 7pm

We recommend the Truffle Mac Noodles, Potion X or a full Detox Package of 6 juices

Fresh Bar (Eat Fit Nola items, salads, wraps, soup, smoothies) – Available daily 11am – 8pm

We recommend the Louisiana Fave Salad, Veggie with Protein Wrap, or a Girl Gone Vegan Brownie for a sweet healthy treat.

SWEGS Kitchen (breakfast, cold-pressed juices, salads, soups, protein) – Available daily 7am – 9pm

We recommend the Turkey Meatballs & Zoodles, the Pac Rim Glazed Salmon or Geaux Green Juice.

By Culinary Design (wraps, salads, seafood) – Available Wed/Thurs/Fri 11am – 2pm

We recommend the Shrimp Wrap, the Salmon or Charred Caesar Salad.

Freshfinity (smoothies, bowls, juices, coffee,) – Available daily 9am – 6pm

We recommend the Garden of Eden Smoothie, the Chef Salad or the Regulator Juice.

UberEATS delivers over 200 restaurants from all over New Orleans straight to your door–at Uber speed. Haven’t checked out the app yet? Click below to download or open the UberEATS app now:

How to Order Healthy Food When You’re at a Restaurant

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Life is about so much more than a lunch box with the perfect ratio of carbs, proteins, and fats.

Life is about travel, entertainment, and birthday parties. For many of us, dining out is one of life’s biggest enjoyments — and the biggest challenge to our healthy eating habits. To maintain our healthy lifestyle and still be able to enjoy our meals out, it is important to make educated choices so we can stay on track.

In a previous article, I talked about eating while traveling. It is a huge challenge to eat clean and healthy meals while you’re on the road, but with knowledge and a bit of preparation it can be done. But whether you’re traveling, on a business lunch, or out for a pay-day dinner with your family, we are all presented with the challenge of restaurant eating quite frequently.

Keep reading and I’ll break down a typical menu — outlining the items to avoid and the better choices available — so you’ll be equipped with all the basics of how to order healthy food when you’re eating out.

Step 1: Order Your Beverage

Most people opt for sodas when they eat out. But these are just buckets of sugar and a recipe for insulin resistance. One glass of soda has about 40g of sugar.

The issue is not the calories so much, but how the sugar wreaks havoc on your system. Basically, the soda shoots your insulin levels through the roof and shuttles all that excess sugar into your liver to be stored as glycogen and then as body fat. Juices might seem like a healthier option, but they are loaded with sugar, too, and will cause the same reaction in your body.

The issue with the sugar is especially compounded because we usually start drinking our soda before our meal has arrived, on an empty stomach. There are no fats or proteins to help slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. If you must have a soda (which should only be because it is a super special occasion), eat something with it to buffer the effect of the sugar overload.

Water is always an excellent choice.

Alcohol is another no-no on my list and should only be enjoyed on special occasions. The body considers alcohol as a poison so it sends it to the liver right away to start the detoxification process. This means that if your liver is busy dealing with alcohol, it will delay dealing with other nutrients. So basically, if you eat a big fatty meal on top of the alcohol, the meal needs to wait to be processed until the alcohol has been processed.

To top it all off, alcohol is more calorie dense than sugar. Sugars and proteins contain four calories per gram, whereas alcohol contain seven calories per gram — and, needless to say, no real nutrition. This means that a beer and pizza is double whammy for weight gain.

Then there are those delicious milkshakes. There is enough fat and sugar in these things to qualify as a whole meal. I would avoid these at all costs.

  • Drinks to avoid: Alcohol, sodas, juices, and milkshakes.
  • Best options: Water, tea with no added sugar, and sparkling mineral water with lemon or lime.

Step 2: The Arrival of the Bread Basket

The bread, as delicious as it is with that whipped butter, should be avoided at all costs. Most breads are loaded with additional sugar and are made of refined white flour that, just like the soda, will shoot your insulin levels through the roof while providing little nutritional value. Regardless if you are gluten intolerant or not, white bread will make many people bloated and gassy, which is not a good way to spend your night out.

  • Best options: Ask the server to skip your table so you’re not even tempted.

Don’t even let this come to your table.

Step 3: Choosing Your Appetizer

Generally speaking, starters are just another way to blow your nutrition plan right off the bat. Most options are loaded with excess fat, such as the creamy spinach dips, onion rings, tater tots, deep fried buffalo chicken wings, or mini pizza squares laden with cheese and salt.

If you do opt for an appetizer, choose a small plate that contains some protein such as grilled calamari, a Japanese-style sliced tuna dish, antipasto (but avoid the crackers and breads), grilled chicken and vegetable skewers, or oysters. Cooked vegetables or a side salad with lots of fresh greens are healthier options, also. Just remember to always ask for dressing on the side, that way you can control the amount you add to your salad.

  • Starters to avoid: Anything deep fried such as onion rings, tater tots, or buffalo chicken wings. Creamy and cheesy dips with chips, mini pizzas, and sliders.
  • Best options: Grilled calamari, Japanese-style fish dishes, antipasto without the crackers and breads, grilled chicken and vegetable skewers, or oysters. Salads with dressing on the side, chopped vegetables with low fat dips such as salsa or hummus.

Eat the fruit, veggies, and (maybe) meat. Skip the cheese, crackers, and dip.

Step 4: Choose Your Side Dishes

Sides are another easy way to drastically overshoot our actual food-intake needs for the day. Fries are the obvious side that is often automatically added to any burger or sandwich. Sweet potato fries are an increasingly available option, but although they are marginally better than normal fries, they are still “fried” and therefore loaded with (usually not very healthy) fat.

Although they are not deep fried, I would still avoid baked potatoes because they typically come covered in cheese, margarine/butter, and salt. Other sides to steer clear of are creamed corn, onion rings, potato wedges, creamy soups like chowders, and even baked beans since they have so much added sugar.

Many meals are accompanied with breads, bagels, and muffins. Avoid these and instead ask for fruit, salad, or vegetables as a substitute. Baked, grilled, or lightly sauteed vegetables are a great option and I choose these often when I am eating out.

  • Sides to avoid: All deep-fried foods such as fries, onion rings, and potato wedges. Creamy soups, baked potatoes, breads, bagels, and muffins.
  • Best options: Salads with dressing on the side, steamed or grilled vegetables, and fruit.

Step 5: Decide on Your Main Course

Your best bet with mains at most restaurants is to skip right past the section of the menu that offers burgers and club sandwiches. Once again, the bread is most likely refined white flour with little or no nutritional value. In addition, most of these meals are the kind that come with fries. If you absolutely need a burger, swap out the fries for salad or fruit and remove the top part of the bun and eat your burger open-faced.

I frequently eat out, but stay in shape by making smart choices and paying attention to portion control.

The other main courses to skip are the pastas. Just like bread, most pastas are made with refined white flour. Pastas are very dense in carbs and if these carbs are not used up by your body, then they will be stored as fat. If you are eating out for dinner, sitting to watch a movie, and then going to bed, you’re not using those carbs. Unless you are hitting the club to go dancing for the five hours following dinner, then eating pasta is pretty much a guarantee to pile on the pounds.

Other items that should be avoided are deep fried fish dinners, anything “breaded,” and creamy rice dishes such as risotto. None of those things are likely have much nutritional benefit anyway.

Your best choices when ordering mains are baked or grilled fish, baked or grilled chicken, or a lean steak with vegetables. Just make sure to nix any sauces that might get added as these are usually full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. And remember to avoid the fries and ask for extra veggies or a side salad instead.

Alternatively, you can order a big salad. Most restaurants offer a variety of different salads packed full of healthy vegetables. Not all salads are created equal, though. A grilled chicken salad with lots of greens, sliced avocado, and some olives is a much better option than a buffalo chicken salad with deep-fried chicken, only a few lettuce leaves, and lots of other less healthy ingredients such as tortillas, croutons, cheese, candied nuts, and dried fruit with lots of sugar.

As a basic rule, avoid croutons. Dairy is troublesome for a lot of people, but if you would like to enjoy a bit of cheese, then opt for a sprinkling of feta or some goat cheese. Most of the candied nuts are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, so avoid those, too. Choose salads that contain raw nuts or seeds and be mindful of the sugar content of the dates, cranberries, and raisins.

This fish dinner with bean salsa is an example of a healthy, well-rounded meal.

Remember to ask for the dressing on the side so you can control how much to put on your salad. I also recommend avoiding the creamy ranch-style dressings. Ask for a vinaigrette made with olive oil, since that is a much healthier fat than what is often in dressings. If you don’t like any of the options available, then just ask for olive oil and vinegar — most restaurants can bring a couple bottles to your table and you can make your own dressing.

  • Mains to avoid: Burgers and sandwiches served on bread or buns; deep-fried meals such as fried calamari, fish, and chicken; pasta in general, but especially creamy pasta and rice dishes. Also avoid salads with deep fried chicken and all the extras such as croutons, dried fruit, and candied nuts.
  • Best options: A lean protein source such as baked or grilled seafood, baked or grilled chicken, or a lean steak with vegetables. A healthy salad with the dressing on the side.

Step 6: What About Dessert?

There is pretty much nothing on a dessert menu that is healthy-eating friendly. The rich, decadent chocolate cakes, pies, brownies, and sundaes are something to be eaten only on special occasions. If you are one of those people with a sweet-tooth who must finish the night out with a treat, the healthier options are gelatos, light mousses, or an assortment of fruit.

If I order dessert, I always share it with a few people. If you order a piece of cake, ask for enough spoons for everybody at the table. That way you are satisfying your craving, but not completely blow your nutrition plan.

  • Desserts to avoid: Everything.
  • Best options: Gelatos, after-dinner mints, light mousse, or a bowl of fruit.

Fruit can make a fabulous dessert.

A Special Note About Serving Sizes

Let’s be honest, the serving sizes at most restaurants in America are huge. Personally, if I ate a starter plus an entree with a side and a dessert, I would feel like a stuffed pig. I would be lucky to be able to walk out of the restaurant.

A lot of eating right at restaurants is not just about choosing the right meals, but also about being mindful of overeating. I tell all my clients to avoid the starters and go straight to a main dish with a healthy side. If you really want something on the starter menu, consider ordering two starters to replace your main meal. This is something I often do. I will choose a salad with some avocado and goat cheese and also some grilled calamari or half a dozen oysters. And that’s it!

To avoid overeating, the obvious thing is to stop eating when you feel full. Ask for a to-go box and save the rest for later. Drinking plenty of water is a good way to avoid overeating since the liquid fills you up. I also eat something small just before I leave my house so I am not arriving at the restaurant starving and inclined to order everything in front of me. Nibble on some chopped fruit, veggies, or nuts before you head out the door.

This tuna appetizer could also be a main dish.

You Can Order Healthy Food and Still Have Fun

Eating out can be a treat, it’s a great way to connect with friends and family, and it’s often how we enjoy special occasions. But dining out does not have to be an excuse to completely blow your healthy eating plan.

You can eat out, enjoy yourself, and still eat mindfully. Making some of the smarter choices I’ve outlined will keep you on track toward feeling good and looking good. Stay away from foods and drinks that are loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar, steer clear of the bread basket, and share dessert among friends instead of eating it by yourself. And if you feel full at any point, put whatever is left in the to-go box.

Moderation to everything in life is the key. Do your due diligence each week in planning and preparing most of your own meals, and eating out once in a while won’t crush your progress toward your goals.

Sophia is an athlete, coach, trainer, and mother. Her focus is women’s health and fitness, as well as pregnancy and postpartum workouts and nutrition. Her new e-book Spring Into Summer offers a seven-day meal plan with over thirty recipes.
Sophia also offers personalized diet and workout programs on her website, a no-nonsense nutrition eBook, and a free weekly newsletter full of health and fitness tips. Sophia travels the world to teach seminars and she offers Lifestyle camps in Las Vegas.
Her sporting career started when she was four years old as a jazz ballet dancer. At age eleven, she began gymnastics and trained in an elite squad for almost ten years. In 2002, she began Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and was awarded her black belt in 2010 making her the first Australian female to receive a black belt in the sport.
Sophia competed nationally and internationally, earning multiple state, national, Pan-Pacific, and Pan-American titles, as well multiple No Gi World Champion titles and a World Champion title. Currently, she lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and competes in figure shows. She holds the distinction of being the Overall Unlimited Champion in the Figure division for the NPC federation.
Sophia received her qualification in gymnastics coaching and Cert III and IV for Personal Training. She has worked as a personal trainer specializing in functional training for athletes and nutrition for more than a decade. Sophia travels the world to teach BJJ, women’s self defense, and nutrition seminars. She also runs a women’s only training program in Las Vegas.

How to Order Healthy at Any Restaurant

1. Beware the word “crispy”: “Crispy” is usually code for “fried,” and “fried” is code for “dunked in batter and then plunged in oil” — not the healthiest food choice you can make.
2. Go for grilled, baked, broiled, roasted, braised: These cooking methods don’t require much added fat, so the dishes that are prepared this way may be healthier. That’s not to say the chefs aren’t also going to add rich sauces, though; ask about preparation methods.
3. Start off with a soup or salad: If you start your meal with soup or salad, you tend to eat less during the rest of your meal, according to research. Vegetable-based soups and salads are a good way to get some fiber and other nutrients into your meal, which starts to fill you up.
4. If you do get soup, choose one with a clear broth: For the healthiest start to your meal, skip the cream-based options. It’s usually a safe bet to order something like pasta e fagioli (which has chicken broth, beans, veggies and pasta) or minestrone, rather than cream of broccoli.
5. Order leaner cuts of meat: T-bone, sirloin, flank steak, strip steak and pot roast are all lean cuts of beef and will have fewer calories and less saturated fat than some of the other options on the menu. Poultry is also a smart way to go, as is seafood or tofu (as long as we’re not talking about deep-fried tofu or fish and chips).
6. Do your homework: If you’re really watching what you eat, it may be helpful to read the menu before you get to the restaurant and decide what you’re going to order. If you’re eating at a chain restaurant, you can even look up the nutritional information ahead of time so you can make the healthiest choice.
7. Avoid processed and highly fatty meats: Pork belly may be really popular on restaurant menus these days, but it’s essentially a really fatty piece of meat — not healthy. Likewise, bacon, sausage and short ribs are items to avoid when you’re trying to eat healthfully. They have way too much saturated fat and (in the case of the processed meats) sodium to really be good for you.
8. Skip the bread: If bread is the favorite part of eating out, then sure, go for a slice. But unless the bread is really great, it’s often not worth it.
9. Share dishes: A lot of restaurants serve way too much food. And while this may seem like a good value, it’s really no bargain when it comes to your health. Your best bet is often to share a main dish. Then you can each start off with a side salad or soup. You get plenty of food (in an appropriate portion size), you save money and you keep calories and other numbers in check.
10. Order off the kids’ menu: Another way to sometimes get the most portion-size-appropriate dish is to order off the kids’ menu. Case in point: A burger on the kids’ menu is usually 3 to 4 ounces (i.e., the correct portion size for a serving of meat), whereas on the regular menu it’s often 8 ounces (a half pounder). Likewise, kids’-size fries or ice cream are not a huge calorie splurge, but you’ll get some of the indulgence you crave.
Kerri-Ann Jennings is a registered dietitian who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

We love our restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans eat about 24 percent — almost one quarter — of their meals away from home.

Restaurant food is meant to look, smell and taste great, and that means nutrition can sometimes fall by the wayside when menus feature main dishes drenched in butter or rich sauces, salads with creamy dressings, and few whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Try these strategies for enjoying a meal out while sticking to a healthy eating plan.

1. Sleuth It Out

These days, you can find healthful foods almost everywhere. The trick is to know what you’re getting into before you get to the restaurant and are tempted by enticing menu descriptions. Many restaurants have their menus online — some with nutrition information readily available. You’ll be able to choose the destination with the healthiest options, and go into the eatery ready to order the best meal and ask for substitutions where necessary.

Before you head out, make a plan:

  • Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch that day. Or, if you know ahead of time that you’re going to a restaurant, plan to have lighter meals during the day.
  • Make a commitment to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.
  • Make physical activity part of dining out. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Pick a restaurant that’s a 10- or 15-minute walk. You’ll get your meal, 30 minutes of physical activity and avoid the parking hassles. Or, get moving as a group before or after eating. A brisk walk before a meal gives you time to chat. A stroll afterward helps your digestion.

2. Don’t Split Your Plate

You’ve probably read advice to ask for half portions or share your meal with a friend. But given the huge portion sizes doled out at some restaurants, half may still be too much. Practice visualizing what your plate would look like at home and trying to replicate that in your restaurant meal.

And, be deliberate when ordering. Balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you “balance in a bowl.” For example, entrée salads with baked or grilled chicken, beans or seafood provide protein along with fiber and other nutrients. Ask for dressing on the side so you can control the portion size.

For sandwich toppings, go with veggie options including lettuce, tomato, avocado and onion; if using condiments, choose ketchup, mustard, relish or salsa.

Round out your meal by ordering healthy side dishes, such as a side salad, baked potato or fruit. Boost the nutritional value of your baked potato by topping it with vegetables, salsa or chili.

3. Add to Your Meal

Think eating healthfully is all about what you can’t eat? Focus on what healthy items you can add to your plate instead of only what foods to avoid. Look for whole-grain breads, pastas and sides; opt for foods with healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds; be sure to order lots of fruits and veggies; and go for lean meat, turkey, chicken or fish.

4. Don’t Go Overly Hungry

You sit down starving, and before you know it you’ve scarfed down several pieces of buttered bread before your main meal arrives. If you’re ravenous before you leave for the restaurant, nosh on a small snack such as a piece of fruit. Or, at the restaurant, order a cup of broth-based soup or small salad to stave off hunger.

5. Watch for the Wording

6. Ask, Ask, Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask your server to help you healthy-up your meal. For example, you could ask for a salad in place of the usual fries or chips with a meal. You can also ask for items to be prepared with less oil or cheese, ask the server to take away the bread basket and serve salad with dressing on the side, and request an appetizer portion of a main meal.

You can even often order “off-menu” — for example, ask what vegetarian dish the chef can prepare for you or if it’s possible to make grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Many restaurants are happy to comply.

If you enjoy dining out, don’t think you have to stop if you want to stay healthy. With some preparation and savvy substitutions, you can order meals that are as nutritious as the ones you prepare at home.

Sample Menus: Healthy Eating for Older Adults

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Planning a day’s worth of meals using smart food choices might seem overwhelming at first. Here are some sample menus to show you how easy it can be. These menus provide 2,000 calories a day and do not exceed the recommended amount of sodium or calories from saturated fats and added sugars. You might need to eat fewer or more calories, depending on your height, weight, activity level and whether you are a man or a woman.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate offers sample two-week menus. These menus provide recommended food group amounts for a 2,000-calorie USDA Food Pattern. They also meet recommended intake amounts for almost all nutrients. The menus include healthy dishes that you can learn to prepare from recipes at What’s Cooking? USDA Healthy Mixing Bowl. Other cookbooks and healthy recipes for many different types of cuisines are featured at:

Trying to lose weight? Check out these 1,200- and 1,600-calorie menus. These sample menus reflect several culinary styles: traditional American cuisine, Asian- American cuisine, Southern cuisine, Mexican-American cuisine, and lacto-ovo vegetarian cuisine. These menus also make use of the What’s Cooking? recipe database.

Sample Menu

Breakfast Lunch

1/2 whole wheat bagel

  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 medium banana

Coffee

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Tuna salad sandwich

  • 2 slices 100% whole wheat bread
  • 2 ounces canned tuna
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 1 medium leaf lettuce

4 baby carrots

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup low-fat milk

Dinner Snack

Spaghetti & meatballs

  • 1 cup cooked spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes (canned, no salt added)
  • 3 medium meatballs
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

Garden salad

  • 1 cup mixed greens
  • 3 slices cucumber
  • 1/4 cup cubed avocado
  • 1/4 cup garbanzo beans (canned, low sodium)
  • 3 tablespoons shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing

1 cup tap water

1/2 medium apple

Fat-free strawberry yogurt (8 ounces)

Find more recipes at the USDA’s What’s Cooking website.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information on Healthy Eating Plans

Choose My Plate

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center
National Agricultural Library
1-301-504-5755

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
1-703-305-7600
www.fns.usda.gov/cnpp

This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.

Content reviewed: April 30, 2019

7-Day Heart-Healthy Meal Plan: 1,200 Calories

A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons to protect against heart disease. In fact, incorporating heart-healthy foods, exercising more, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking can help reduce cardiovascular disease-related deaths by 50 percent. With this simple 1,200-calorie meal plan, you’ll protect your heart and lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds per week in the process.

Related: 15 Little Ways to Protect Your Heart

The meals and snacks in this diet plan feature heart-healthy foods recommended for a cardiac diet, like fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, lean protein and fats like olive oil and avocado (see our full list of top 15 heart-healthy foods to eat). Saturated fat, added sugars and sodium (nutrients that can harm your heart in large amounts) are kept to a minimum and instead, dishes are seasoned with lots of herbs and spices to keep things flavorful and exciting. With this simple meal plan, you’ll have healthy meals for the week at the ready!

Looking for a different calorie level? See this same meal plan at 1,500 and 2,000 calories.

Don’t Miss: Delicious Heart-Healthy Recipes

How to Meal Prep Your Week of Meals

  1. Meal prep the Spinach & Strawberry Meal-Prep Salad to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5. Store the salad in an air-tight container (To buy: amazon.com, $26 for 5) and the dressing separately in a small container (To buy: amazon.com, $12 for 8).

Day 1

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Breakfast (271 calories)

  • 1 serving Avocado Egg Toast

A.M. Snack (84 calories)

  • 1 cup blueberries

Lunch (374 calories)

  • 1 serving Loaded Black Bean Nacho Soup

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (457 calories)

  • 1 serving Seared Salmon with Green Peppercorn Sauce
  • 1 cup steamed green beans
  • 1 baked medium red potato, drizzled with 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt and a pinch of pepper.

Daily Totals: 1,224 calories, 60 g protein, 142 g carbohydrates, 28 g fiber, 52 g fat, 11 g sat. fat., 828 mg sodium

Day 2

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Breakfast (265 calories)

  • 1 cup bran cereal
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 serving Spinach & Strawberry Meal-Prep Salad
  • 1medium orange

Dinner (429 calories)

  • 1 serving Charred Shrimp & Pesto Buddha Bowls

Daily Totals: 1,225 calories, 75 g protein, 148 g carbohydrates, 39 g fiber, 50 g fat, 9 g sat. fat., 1,363 mg sodium

Day 3

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Breakfast (297 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 2 tsp. honey

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 serving Spinach & Strawberry Meal-Prep Salad
  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (416 calories)

  • 1 serving Curried Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted

Daily Totals: 1,212 calories, 70 g protein, 132 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 51 g fat, 9 g sat. fat., 1,332 mg sodium

Day 5

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Breakfast (333 calories)

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, cooked in 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup raspberries

Cook oats and top with raspberries and a pinch of cinnamon.

A.M. Snack (102 calories)

  • 1 medium bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. hummus
  • 1 serving Spinach & Strawberry Meal-Prep Salad

P.M. Snack (84 calories)

  • 1 cup blueberries

Dinner (304 calories)

  • 1 1/4 cups Chicken Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Daily Totals: 1,198 calories, 77 g protein, 120 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 48 g fat, 9 g sat. fat., 1,405 mg sodium.

Day 6

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Breakfast (328 calories)

  • 1 cup bran cereal
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup blueberries

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch (296 calories)

  • 1 serving Tuna, White Bean & Dill Salad

Meal-Prep Tip: Save a serving of the tuna salad to have for lunch on Day 7.

P.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 serving Toaster-Oven Tostada

Daily Totals: 1,206 calories, 55 g protein, 187 g carbohydrates, 55 g fiber, 39 g fat, 8 g sat. fat., 1,203 mg sodium.

Day 7

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Breakfast (355 calories)

  • 1 serving Avocado Egg Toast
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (366 calories)

  • 1 serving Tuna, White Bean & Dill Salad
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (374 calories)

  • 1 serving Skillet Lemon Chicken & Potatoes with Kale

Daily Totals: 1,220 calories, 64 g protein, 132 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 51 g fat, 9 g sat. fat., 1,275 mg sodium.

Watch How to Make Skillet Lemon Chicken & Potatoes with Kale

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