Finding Healthy Restaurants

A salad with dressing on the side can be a healthy meal option

Finding a healthy, balanced meal at most fast food restaurants can be a challenge, but there are choices that you can make that are healthier than others. Making healthier choices at fast food restaurants is not that daunting a task if you plan in advance by observing the dietary content of the food choices at your much-loved restaurant. Most fast food places now offer nutritional information either online or on their menus. It is important to know what you are ordering. Check the ingredients and calorie content as well as saturated fat and sodium to make a well-informed choice.

Do you know what healthy eating means? It is a balanced diet that is low in harmful fats, refined sugars and salt and high in fiber. Your healthy diet must include enough protein, minerals and vitamins. Healthy eating means getting the right balance of different foods.

Following are some examples of healthy food options. Most restaurants offer more health-conscious choices these days:

1. Whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, whole grain cereals, brown rice or whole grain pasta, brown rice, and chapatti. These carbohydrates are starchy which are good for slow-release energy. Select one of these foods at every meal. High-fiber foods make you feel fuller for a long time. The only fats we obtain in these foods are the fats that we consume with them like butter on potatoes or bread, whole milk in cereals. Watch out for added fats as most fats added at fast food establishments are harmful saturated fats.

2.    Vegetables and Fruits. They are rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. The target is at least five servings per day. Vegetables and fruits give essential fiber and vitamins that help protect the body against some cancers and heart disease.
A serving may be broken down into one of the following:
  • 1/2 cup of vegetables – cooked slightly or raw
  • A dessert bowl of organic salad
  • An orange, apple, or banana
  • Two small fruits like apricots or plums
  • A handful of organic cherries or grapes
  • A glass of natural fruit juice (check ingredient labels to be certain no added sugars have been included) or freshly pressed green juice

3.  Eggs, yogurt, milk and cheese. They are rich in protein and you may opt for the low-fat types to help maintain a healthy weight. If you are vegan like I am, opt for vegan versions. There are even alternatives to soy cheeses that are made from almond or rice.

4.  Fish, poultry, meat, vegetables, nuts, tofu, beans, and cheese. They are rich in protein. Legumes and beans also contain useful fibers. Try to have two servings of protein food per day. Red meat contains high fat compared to fish and chicken. If you opt for meat, eat the lower fat versions that are grass fed and organic. Your meat is only as high quality as the animal that it comes from!

5. Foods that are high in calories like fried and sweet foods should be avoided. These kinds of foods are high in refined sugar, saturated fat and calories. These include biscuits, cakes, chocolate, fried foods, crisps and pastries. If possible avoid these foods. If you have a craving, at least opt for low-fat and low-calorie versions. Otherwise, enjoy these foods rarely as a guilty pleasure.

Finding a healthy choice at a fast food restaurant isn’t as much of a challenge as it used to be. Asian cuisine, such as Chinese or Japanese foods, typically offer plenty of veggie choices that are low in fat. Order sauces on the side in order to control calorie intake. A healthy meal can be enjoyed almost anywhere. You just need to be a savvy diner.

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