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5 Restaurant Tips When Eating By Design

5 Restaurant Tips When Eating By Design

Are you on a diet but want to dine out? Does eating healthy mean you have to give up eating out at restaurants forever?


Believe me I did it for a few years when I was prepping for bodybuilding shows. Although it’s generally more difficult to stick within the guidelines when eating out, it’s definitely not impossible.

And there are some really simple steps you can follow to help source nutrient-dense food when you’re at a restaurant.

Step #1: When eating out, embrace the awkwardness. It’s safe to assume that you’re going to have lots of questions for your server about the menu and still ask to modify your meal, so be prepared. Instead of being self conscious about your requests, be confident that you’re asking for modifications that are healthiest for you and won’t make you feel sluggish, bloated, or all around terrible after your meal.

Ask politely and show your appreciation to the restaurant staff for accommodating your preferences. When you do that they’re more likely to show you the same courtesy. Restaurant staff just want you to be happy. When you’re happy, you have a better experience and tip more, which in turn makes them happy.

Step #2: Do your best to scope out the restaurant ahead of time. If you have a few minutes before arriving at the restaurant, browse the menu online and pay attention to unique ‘no substitution’ policies. This is uncommon, but still something to look for because it could be a potential problem. Taking a few minutes to scope out the menu ahead of time will help you prepare questions to ask your server and help you narrow down a few items on the menu that require a few modifications.

Some restaurants will post ingredients or allergens. Wheat will be the most common allergen that you can easily track and want to avoid or substitute. For example, sub out the tortillas in your fajitas for lettuce wraps or sub out the bun for a bun-less burger with extra toppings. Watch out for the sneaky spots that wheat likes to hide… flour in soups and stews and breadcrumbs in sausages and burgers.

If you have more time, give the restaurant a call. Ask what fats or oils they use to cook with and if they offer substitutions like butter or coconut oil. This isn’t common, but not unheard of practice. Let the hostess know that you’re coming and that you will have specific food requests. You may choose to ask where their ingredients are sourced. Or better yet, choose a restaurant that advertises they use locally sourced, free range, pasture raised, or organic ingredients so you’ll have more items on the menu to choose from.

Step #3: Once you get there, prioritize your protein. Opt for pasture raised meat or wild seafood. If, like most restaurants, the meat is conventionally sourced, you’ll need to make the best of less-than-optimal protein sources. Good options are steamed or grilled fish or seafood and lean cuts of red meat. Okay choices are grilled chicken or fattier cuts of red meat. Definitely avoid sausages or burgers that contain breadcrumbs.

Step #4: Ask questions about the cooking method before choosing your meal. Some restaurants are happy to substitute a cooking method and have no problem grilling your food instead of deep-frying it. Prioritize grilled foods, which are cooked directly over heat on a metal rack, or steamed foods, which are cooked using hot water. Sautéed foods are cooked in a small amount of fat, which is usually a vegetable oil. Fried foods are usually cooked at high temperatures in vegetable oil, which should be avoided if possible.  I ask for my meat to be grilled with no oils or sauces.

Step #5: If all else fails, choose from one of our favorite go-to menu items listed below:

  1. Bun-less burger (made without breadcrumbs) with all your favorite fixings (pickles, tomato, lettuce, mustard, avocado, cheese).
  2. Steak and baked potato topped with butter.
  3. Chicken fajitas (prepared with spices only and not barbecue sauce) served in a lettuce wrap instead of tortilla topped with salsa and guacamole.
  4. A huge salad with your favorite veggies, fruit, nuts, or seeds and topped with steamed or grilled fish with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

I hope you found these tips helpful and serve as a resource the next time you head out to a restaurant. I’d love to hear what you found on the menu… comment below!

Dr. Cindy Beemer

Beemer Back Center