Q:My lifestyle involves eating out a fair amount, but I want to make the best choices that I can. What do I need to focus on… fat, calories, carbs, sodium, etc? Or is it a combination?


The answer really is a combination. It is virtually impossible to find restaurant food that is low in everything, so your best bet is to look for the lowest calorie and carb option. Lower calorie dishes tend to be low in fat, although foods that have nuts will naturally be higher in fat. You can modify your selection to make it lower in sodium with a few simple alterations.

Be the most cautious about salads. Salads at many restaurants have as many calories (if not more) than the burgers, often reaching as high as 1300 for a seemingly “healthy” choice. When you order a salad, order these items on the side, and put a small portionof each on your salad:

  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Dried Fruit
  • Croutons
  • Dressing

You can make a huge difference in the overall nutrition by doing this. I just order a salad with grilled chicken and ask for all of the toppings on the side.

Another great option is to tell them to skip the starch (rice, potato, bread), and give you double vegetables. Restaurant veggies are often cooked in butter, so I generally ask that they use no butter or oil.

Restaurant food is almost all high in sodium, but there are some hidden sources that you may easily be able to leave out to cut the total salt. When a restaurant or food manufacturer makes a food lower in calories, they generally add sugar or salt. Try to think about this when you are ordering a low calorie dish at a restaurant.

  • Ask for the sauce on the side, and pour on an appropriate amount for you. This cuts fat, calories, and sodium.

Some hidden sources of sodium include:

  • Croutons
  • Bread (in general, bread is quite high in sodium)
  • Cheese
  • “Light” dressing tends to be higher in sodium, so use it sparingly or opt for plain balsamic vinegar instead.
  • Processed meats like bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and sandwich meats are very high in sodium. A simple switch at Subway is to order the grilled chicken instead of the processed sandwich meat.

Studies show that high salt high and fat meals affect the arteries within 30 minutes, making the consumer at higher risk for heart attack and stroke for about 2 hours afterwards. That tells us that we need to be looking not only at the long-term consequences of these meals, but also the short term.

Try some of these simple changes to create a healthier restaurant meal. Simple changes make a big difference.