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Food Wise: Tips for Healthy Eating at the Restaurant

12/4/2008 8:52:01 AM

Tags: Olivia Blanco Mullins, FoodWise, restaurant food, healthy eating

My husband owns a restaurant, so even though I love to cook, I end up eating at his place several times out of the week (at least 4 times) so we can have dinner together. In addition, we love going out to other restaurants, both for research and for fun.

While I really enjoy being able to do this with my husband, I know that it is not the healthiest approach to eating. So in the last years I have come up with a couple of ground rules that have kept me from gaining weight and feeling sluggish. I don’t always follow them, but I do keep them in mind. I have been successful at staying healthy, and I think this will be useful to you through the holidays and the rest of the year.


Restaurant fare is tasty, but not healthy enough to eat every day.

1. Always enjoy your food. Don’t order a salad you don’t like if you really want pasta. The salad won’t satisfy you, and you may end up eating your partner’s cold leftovers when you get home. Order something you want, but eat only what you need.

2. Skip the bread. I never eat the bread at our restaurant. It comes with garlic and herb butter and it is delicious, but it is not what I go there for. No one really needs the white flour or the butter, so ask your server to take it away. If you are used to eating with bread by your side, resist the temptation to eat it until your entrée has arrived; this will keep you from filling up on it and asking for more.

3. Look for protein- and vegetable-based dishes, and ask the server to skip the starches. I usually ask my server to substitute the mashed potatoes and risotto for extra vegetables. For example, a salmon steak and green beans is an excellent dinner choice; will you really miss the buttery spaghetti? For me it is like the old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

4. Ask for your meal without the sauce. Many entrées come smothered in cream or butter-based sauces, and while they are tasty, more often than not they are unnecessary. By asking for a dish without or with little sauce, you’ll be avoiding some major calories and fat.

5. Indulge, but in moderation. When the restaurant first opened, I had dessert each night I ate there. It was a fun month, but the daily sugar rush was less than healthy. Now I have dessert only when we are celebrating something, like our anniversary or a promotion. Sometimes we end up celebrating the fact that we are alive, but we really make an effort to indulge only occasionally.  

6. Whenever you can, eat what you cook. I bring food to the office 99 percent of the time. This saves me money and calories. I find that eating at the restaurants around my office is not that enjoyable as a culinary experience, and while I do miss the camaraderie that develops during these lunches, there are other ways to bond with your

There are other rules in my life for staying healthy, of course. I haven’t been to a fast food chain in a decade, and I always look for quality and not quantity when it comes to restaurants. These rules set the tone for my dining experience, however, and I’d like to know if other people think about what they order when they go to a restaurant. Do you have any tips on staying healthy while eating restaurant fare?

Olivia Blanco Mullins is a journalist and has been eating healthy most of her life, as her parents have owned health food stores for more than 20 years. Currently she lives in Manhattan, Kansas, where her husband owns an Italian restaurant . 

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