How to Make Healthy Choices When Eating Out

Ordering at fast food restaurant
Stephanie Fernandes

Stephanie Fernandes

MS, RD/LDN, METS I, ISAK I

When you’re out and about with your child, whether you are getting ready to go to a practice or game or just going about your day to day life, there will always be those times when you don’t have much other option than hitting up a drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant.

While planning is what you should be aiming for, finding great healthy recipes for home-made protein bars or muffins you can take with you when you’re on the road, sometimes life gets in the way.

So if you are going to stop at a fast-food restaurant, it becomes essential that you know how to choose healthily.

Here are six steps to making the best choices when dining out.

look up menu online

1. Sleuth It Out

Know what you are getting into before you get to the restaurant.

I always like to do a quick search on Google or Yelp to see what health-conscious restaurants are around or within a close range of my location. Many restaurants have their menus online, and some include nutrition information or have interactive features where you can build out your order and review the nutrition information like Chipotle.

2. Check How the Food is Cooked and Prepared.

When reviewing the menus, the descriptions or even the item’s name can give us clues about how it is cooked and prepared. While some choices are obvious – anything with “fried” – other items like French fries or onion rings, can sneak by you. These differences are where added fat can creep in, lessening the usefulness of a pre-game or pre-workout meal.

It’s in the description. Look for grilled, steamed, broiled, baked, seared, braised roasted, or poached.

Avoid descriptions that include words like fried, pan-fried, breaded, au gratin, crispy, pan-fried, stuffed, smothered, creamy, or cheesy. These are often very high in fat, which if before a game or practice, can impair performance and recovery.

Ask about items that are grilled, broiled, and steamed if butter or oil is added before or after cooking. For items like salads, ask what the toppings are or what salad dressings are available.

For items that do not include added butter or oil, request for the chef to prepare without or with minimal amounts or if it is sauteed, ask for a minimal amount of butter or oil be used.

For salads, make sure there is a balance between the toppings – such as cheese, nuts, seeds – and the dressing. Choose oil-based dressing like vinaigrettes more often.

3. Use performance plating to build out your order.

heavy day training plate for athletes
  • High-Quality Protein
  • Whole Grain
  • Vegetable
  • Healthy Fats
  • Fruit

4. Add It

Add a side of vegetables or salad if it isn’t already a part of your dish or if your meal comes with an option for you to choose your sides to make one a nutrient-packed vegetable.

5. Can’t Forget the Fluids

Can’t forget to hydrate.  Keep it simple, stick to water, unsweetened teas, flavored waters, and even milk and chocolate milk.

6. Ask, Ask, Ask

Again, don’t be afraid to ask how your food is prepared and customize your order!

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