Making Healthier Choices At Your Favorite Restaurants

Everyone eats out now + then. Especially when you’re in college! It’s a great way to spend time with your friends, meet someone new, or sometimes when you’re busy, you don’t have much of a choice. Eating out can be a treat + it can never hurt to splurge, but we are all sometimes faced with the challenge of trying to keep it at least moderately healthy, while still going out + having a good time. Here are some tips on how to make healthier choices at your favorite restaurants!

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FAST FOOD BURGER JOINTS: MCDONALD’S, BURGER KING, WENDY’S

#1]  Salads– A salad is always a solid option + you may be surprised that the salads you get from these restaurants are tastier than you would think! Plus, you’re not stuck with the basic caesar or veggie option… a lot of these fast food joints get creative with them [ex: McDonalds’ southwest grilled chicken salad].

#2]  Wraps — Many times, these restaurants will offer a wrap option, like Wendy’s grilled chicken wrap. These are a much better alternative to a sandwich + the inside can be just as delicious!

#3]  Burgers + Chicken Sandwiches — These options aren’t all bad, as long as you don’t go crazy with them. A basic cheeseburger or grilled chicken sandwich is not a “mistake.” Keep them simple + watch out for add-ons. Swap your side of french fries for the fruit option!

AMERICAN RESTAURANTS: APPLEBEE’S, TGI FRIDAYS, RED ROBIN

#1]  Calorie Counts — Most of these places have calorie counts on the menu + you can easily find the nutrition stats online. While you shouldn’t let these numbers rule your life, they can be a good gauge for what’s good. For example, Applebees’ grilled chicken is 190 calories + the chicken tenders plate is 920 calories.

#2]  Check out the “Entrees” — After endless sections of burgers, appetizers, + sandwiches, there is usually the “entrees.” These are all of the meals that didn’t fit in any other section + they are surpassed due to the more tempting categories before it. This is usually where you can find most of your healthy options [grilled chicken, salmon, stir-fry, etc.]

#3]  Watch Your Sides — These restaurants are famous for pairing french fries or other fried food with all of their entrees automatically. However, they also usually have a menu full of veggies as sides that you can swap out at no cost ; )

ITALIAN RESTAURANTS: OLIVE GARDEN, CARRABBA’S, BERTUCCI’S

#1]  Watch Your Pasta Sauce — Who isn’t tempted by some good spaghetti? Although noodles may not be the best, sometimes we want to treat ourselves a little bit. Just remember to choose a good sauce! Cream-based sauces are the ones you may want to steer clear of if you’re trying to go for something on the “healthier side.” Try to stick with something light, like regular marinara or something like Olive Garden’s shrimp scampi. But there is also a time for a creamy sauce ; ) [Hello fettucine alfredo!]

#2]  Maintain a Good Balance — Italian food can be really carb heavy. Carbs are not a bad thing! Just make sure you get some other nutrients as well. Make sure you’re getting some protein in there too, whether you add chicken or shrimp to your entrée of choice + get plenty of veggies.
#3]  Hack Your Pizza — Another infamous option when you go for Italian. You don’t have to say no altogether just be smart about it. Bertucci’s can make your crust whole wheat! Load up on the veggies + ask for a box right away! Save some of the rest for lunch the next day!

BREAKFAST: IHOP, CRACKER BARREL, DENNY’S

#1]  Portion Your Pancakes — Sometimes you can’t resist some good pancakes at breakfast. Good news: they’re not all that bad. Instead of getting a giant stack of pancakes, loaded up with whipped cream, sugary syrup, other fancy toppings, keep it basic. IHOP lets you combine them with pretty much any other meal option, so get a short stack with some eggs + meat as well to get your protein in.
#2]  Don’t be Fooled — There are so many healthy breakfast options, but it’s also easy to dress them up. Just because you ordered eggs + turkey sausage doesn’t mean that sides on the unhealthier side are cancelled out. Cracker Barrel’s side options are great + have plenty of healthy options. You usually get two sides, so even if you can’t resist the biscuits, you can still get your fruit as well.

#3]  Lighter Menus — If you’re easily tempted, sometimes your best bet is to flip right to the healthier option menu. These are still filled with choices + you will know you’re making a good decision. Denny’s fit fare menu has tons of breakfast options that will help you get your veggies in for the day! 

BONUS: STEAKHOUSE, SEAFOOD, + MORE!

#1]  Steakhouses + Seafood — Steak + seafood are great meals! The key, just like we said before, is those side dishes + appetizers! Indulge with your favorite steak or fish + keep your sides to veggies, or at least healthier potato options like baked.
#2]  Chick-Fil-A — Pro-tip: their grilled nuggets are banging! Dip them in your favorite sauce, swap your fries for salad or soup, + you actually have a decently healthy + delicious meal in front of you! 

#3]  Chipotle — The key to eating healthy at Chipotle is skipping the rice. Double up on the veggies + add some protein instead. You can customize everything at Chipotle, so don’t be afraid to ask for extra or less of something so that you will enjoy it, guilt-free! 

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Those are our tips for making healthier choices at your favorite restaurants! Have more ideas? Let us know!

 

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