Eating out is unavoidable. Food is a social centerpiece, and sometimes, you just don’t want to cook. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a restaurant where you could order whatever you wanted, just based on how delicious it sounded and know that, without fail, it was the healthiest way to order that meal, anywhere, hands down?

Well, too bad, cause there’s not. And I’m going to open the first one, so don’t steal my idea. That business model isn’t lucrative enough just yet to overtake the monetary lure of opening a grease and not-quite-sure-what-that-meat-is establishment. (Do remember: you vote with your wallets, so every time you order something unhealthy, you are further showing there isn’t a market for healthy restaurant eats.)

So, because restaurants don’t have you health’s best interest at heart, you get the pleasant task of rattling off a bevy of questions and special requests and substitutions to your server to health up your meals. Don’t apologize for it- it’s their job.

Here are a few tips for navigating restaurant menus and simple requests to ensure your meal is as healthy as can be. You control your food- even when someone else cooks it.

If given the choice between an oil based salad dressing and cream, like ranch or bleu cheese, go with oil. While both are pretty calorie dense, oil based dressings at least contain some good fats.

Order sauces on the side. All of ’em. You control what goes on your meal and how much.

Red sauces are healthier and lower in calories than fatty, cream based alfredos or oily pestos.

If eating rice, ask for brown. You may be surprised how many places offer it. If only whole grain pasta in restaurants would catch on- wait, again, that’s my idea, don’t steal it.

Baked, grilled, and steamed are menu green lights.

Fried, smothered, breaded and sauteed are menu turn-around-and-run red lights.

Opt for salad or steamed veggies over starchy sides.

If you can’t taste the cheese, it’s not worth it.

Add veggies. You can add veggies to anything. Or request extra of any already coming in your meal. Even an extra tomato slice on your sammie is worth it.

Ask for your meal to be prepared with no oil, to make sure what you are eating is what you get and nothing more. A lot of places don’t even cook in oil, they use butter or animal fat. Say you are allergic so they take you seriously. They’ll never know you’re lying through your teeth.

Sharing is caring. And less calories for both of you.

Just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it’s good for you. A lot of restaurant salads are higher in fat and calories than most entrees.  Take a look at all the ingredients before deciding to order one.

Beware the cocktail. Food for thought: A Long Island Iced Tea has over 700 calories.

What’s your favorite healthy restaurant tip? You can never have too many in your arsenal!

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