How to Find Healthy Foods on a Restaurant Menu

You can find healthy foods on almost every restaurant menu.
You can find healthy foods on almost every restaurant menu. Qazi Ikram ul haq

Choosing nutritious foods at most restaurants feels like a daunting task. Especially when menus have mouth-watering descriptions or tempting photos—and you're hungry. Occasionally enjoying more decadent foods is fine for overall health. But if you dine out frequently, you may want to learn a few tips for choosing healthier options at a restaurant.

Most restaurants have a variety of healthy options on the menu, but you may occasionally have to ask for modifications. The restaurant may also keep separate menus for diners who follow special diets. For example, if you have special dietary needs like low-fat, gluten-free, or low-carb, these menu items may be listed elsewhere. Don't be afraid to ask your server if you don't find something healthy and appealing on the main menu.

Regardless of menu labels, it is important to examine the selections. Simply being low or free from something doesn't guarantee the special diet fare is any healthier than the regular menu items.

Here are some tips for finding healthier foods on the menu.

Choose the Right Foods

Start by checking the menu for the healthiest entree items.

Some of the best choices may include:

  • Fish or seafood such as crab, clams or scallops
  • Lean meat, like a filet mignon
  • Poultry, like chicken or turkey
  • Legumes such as beans or lentils
  • Vegetarian Entrees

Check the Cooking Method

Then make sure the cooking method is appropriate for your dietary needs. Certain cooking methods may add excessive calories, fat or sodium.

Key descriptions to look for:

  • Steamed
  • Broiled
  • Baked
  • Poached
  • Grilled

These menu items are usually lower in fat and calories, as they are often cooked with less oil or butter. Be sure to ask for sauces on the side in order to control the amount you use on your dish.

Cooking methods to avoid:

  • Fried
  • Deep-fried
  • Au gratin
  • Creamed
  • Batter fried

Food prepared by these methods are high in fat and calories, and they may be high in sodium, as well.

Watch the Sodium

Speaking of sodium, these foods may be very high in sodium:

  • Pickled anything
  • Soy sauce
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Soups or broth

Depending on your dietary needs or preferences, you can ask to have your meal prepared without these items or have them served on the side. If you require a very low sodium diet, it may be best to choose a salad instead of the soup.

Choose the Right Salads

Salads can often be a good choice, but not all salads are necessarily healthy, low-fat, or low-calorie. While salads that feature a lot of vegetables, legumes, or fruit are absolutely healthy choices, try avoiding too many add-ons like creamy dressings, fried toppings or too much cheese. Instead, consider a light vinaigrette or ask for olive oil and vinegar as your dressing. Certain dishes may contain the word "salad" in the name, but lack any real base of vegetables. Be sure to look for those that include a variety of fruit and vegetable options in the description.

If you want dessert, consider something that features fresh fruit or sorbet for the lightest options, or share a more decadent dessert with the table and enjoy a few bites

A Word From Verywell

Don't see any healthy-looking items on the menu? Don't be afraid to ask your server for help. Usually, you can leave out many of the ingredients you don't want or order substitutes. You may be able to purchase a half portion of your meal, or if you have a refrigerator and microwave available, you can take part of your meal to go.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.