How to Choose Smart Menu Items

Today was a hard day. It was the first day since I started Whole Food Market’s Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge that I had to eat out, and man, it was quite a challenge. It was the first time that I saw the disgusting fat and additives put in our everyday menu items at restaurants. When I asked if they had any vegetables without it cooked in oil or butter, I received a blank look. It was today that I realized that, we, Americans, eat A LOT of processed foods. I know that I am not alone in this experience. I know there are those of you who are wanting to improve your health, but have hit the same wall. As I sit down at my computer, I want to share with you what I learned from the experience, so that you can enjoy eating out as much as you do eating in. 😉 Here are some tips and suggested meals:

  • Avoid bread items such as rolls, breadcrumbs, tortillas, pasta, breading, crusts, etc. Unfortunately, even if something is called “whole-wheat,” it is rare to find items that are ONLY made with 100% whole-wheat (unless the restaurant can confirm the ingredients for you).
  • If the waiter/chef doesn’t know (and can’t find out) the ingredients of an item, then they probably don’t make it fresh in house, which means it likely has all sorts of stuff (like sweeteners and preservatives) in it that you don’t want or need.
  • If they don’t know where the meat came from, then I can guarantee it is not from anywhere special (like a grass-fed local farm).
  • For children, do not order off the kid’s menu! The kid’s menu is almost always processed foods or foods made from processed ingredients (like pasta from white flour, factory made chicken nuggets, corn dogs, french fries, etc.). Instead attempt to put together a plate of adult side items that you think your child would eat (like a baked potato, fruit, vegetable, and nuts or cheese you see offered on a salad).
  • Always ask questions when it comes to sauces, and ask for them to be left off when appropriate. It seems as though everything (including lots of sugar) can be hidden in the most surprising places when it comes to sauces, dressings and marinades.
  • If time allows do some research and look at menus in advance to help you make the best restaurant selection and menu choices.

Fortunately, there are restaurants that are offering Smart Choice menus, such as La Madeleine Country French Cafe. La Madeleine offers more than 15 satisfying and delicious Smart Choices selections for all meals year-round, including Chicken la Madeleine, Mediterranean Paella, Smart Choices Omelette, Smart Choices Salade Sampler, Shrimp & Tilapia Provençal and Tilapia Rustique. Only available until March 19, 2013, the Salmon and French Lentils –  a roasted salmon fillet paired with French lentils, seasoned with celery, thyme, kale, tomatoes, onions and roasted garlic – is a healthy and satisfying option.

Also, Chili’s offers Lighter Choices menu items. The Mango-Chile Tilapia and 6 other menu items complete the Lighter Choices menu – three of which are new – with the bold, Southwestern flavors you’ve come to expect from Chili’s entrees.

In North Texas:
Spiral Diner & Bakery, Ft. Worth and Oak Cliff
Company Cafe, Lower Greenville
Seasons 52, Dallas and Plano
Have any restaurants you recommend for healthy dining? I’ll add them to the list!

Let's Talk