Tips For Choosing A Healthy Restaurant

Restaurants are often a speed bump on the path to healthy eating. Rich sauces, huge portion sizes, and tempting appetizers and desserts are hard to avoid when eating out. But restaurants are both a convenience and a pleasure; eating out is an important part of our social lives. Here’s how to choose restaurants that won’t derail your healthy diet.

Look before you leap

Do you have a list of restaurant candidates? Visit their websites. Chain restaurants will usually have nutritional information posted somewhere on the site, though it may be tricky to find. Try searching for the restaurant name along with the words “nutrition” to go straight to the page you want. Locally-owned restaurants may not have calories and fat grams on their site, but they will usually have a menu and photos posted. Look for photos of plates with reasonable portions, lots of vegetables, and avoid restaurants that swamp all their dishes in sweet or rich sauces, deep-fry everything, or fill plates with empty carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice). If you must grab some fast food, Grellin is a website that grades fast food choices. 

Avoid buffets

Is it even possible to go to a buffet and eat just one plate of food? Not for most people. Unless you have amazing willpower, stay away from all-you-can-eat environments. If you find yourself in one, start with soup and a plate of fresh vegetables and try to limit yourself to one plate of dinner.

Seek salad bars

Restaurants with great salad bars, on the other hand, can be very good choices, if you educate yourself on the available items. Fill your salad plate with crisp, colorful fresh vegetables, add a little lean protein, and stay away from the croutons, cheese, ham, bacon bits, and macaroni or potato salads. Supplement your salad bar lunch with a bowl of soup. For a heartier meal, order a lean entree and take half home, or split an entree with a health-conscious companion. 

Grills are great

Is there a local restaurant that specializes in grilling? Grills often feature daily specials that include lean meats, chicken, or fish fillets and a choice of grilled vegetables. Ask for any sugary sauces to be served on the side, and if the dish comes with french fries, ask to substitute a second vegetable. 

Healthiest Chain Restaurants

According to, these are the healthiest restaurants in America. Keep in mind that not every menu item at these restaurants is a model of healthy eating, but each restaurant offers a range of healthy options.

  1. Panera Bread
  2. Jason’s Deli
  3. Au Bon Pain
  4. Noodles & Company
  5. Corner Bakery Cafe
  6. Chipotle
  7. Atlanta Bread
  8. McDonald’s
  9. Einstein Bagels
  10. Taco Del Mar

Wait…McDonald’s made the list? Yes, because it’s offering healthy menu options like apple slices instead of french fries, and 270 calorie grilled chicken snack wraps. It’s still up to you to stay away from the soda and french fries, though!

It’s a good idea to build a list of healthy local restaurant options (and menu items) so you’ll be ready when a craving hits or a friend asks you to meet them for lunch. Your list may start out small, but you can do some research and add a few new options each week. Soon you’ll have a mouthwatering list of favorite healthy choices to replace the guilty pleasures that may have tempted you in the past.