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. If you don't dine out too often, you might be able to splurge on foods that taste good but aren't so good for you. But if you eat in restaurants frequently, you need to know how to find the healthiest foods.

Most restaurants have at least a few healthy options, and these may be noted on the menu. The restaurant may also keep separate menus for diners who follow special diets. For example, you may find low-fat, gluten-free, or low-carb menus to look at. Don't be afraid to ask your server if you don't find something healthy and appealing on the main menu.

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.

The best choices are often:

  • 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 suitable. You don't want to add too many calories from excess fat or pile on the sodium.

Your best choices are:

  • Steamed
  • Broiled
  • Baked
  • Poached
  • Grilled

These menu items are usually lower in fat and calories as long as they're not drenched in heavy sauces.

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 are very high in sodium:

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

Ask to have your meal prepared without these items or have them served on the side. 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. A lot of them are, especially if they feature lots of greens, vegetables, and fruits, but you can still get too much fat and calories when they're laden with thick creamy dressings and cheese. Order a light vinaigrette instead, or use lemon or lime juice. Stay away from taco salads or salads topped with chicken strips because they're high in fat, calories, and sodium.

If you want dessert, choose something that features fresh fruit or berries instead of high-calorie sweets like pies, cakes or ice cream treats.

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.

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