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Going Out To Eat


The most difficult thing about eating healthy is eating healthy at a restaurant. Here are some guidelines to help you make better choices and some things to watch out for.

I've included links to several of the more popular fast food chains nutritional guides -
this is NOT an endorsement of any individual restaurant or chain.

Healthier Choices
Limit and/or Avoid

Broth-based soups (such as vegetable, chicken, or beef)

Marinara, Primavera, white wine, Bolognese, and tomato based sauces

Vinaigrette, Olive Oil, and low calorie dressings


Cream-based soups, sauces, and dressings

  • watch for words such as:

    • cream

    • creamy

    • rich

    • buttery

Entrees that include words such as:

  • Baked

  • Broiled

  • Blackened

  • Cajun

  • Marinated (watch for high salt content)

  • Grilled

  • Poached

  • Steamed

  • Stir-fried

  • Whole wheat


Entrees that include words such as:

  • Breaded

  • Fried

  • Cheese Sauce

  • Cheese Topped

  • Cream Sauce

  • Gravy

  • Crispy

  • "Super-size"

  • Syrup

  • Alfredo

  • Carbonara


  • Bottled water or ice water with lemon or lime slices

Wine or Light Beer

  • watch your portions!

Coffee or tea

  • limit the added sugar and use fat-free creamers

Diet Soda

  • Any kind except Cola (cola depletes your body of calcium)

Skim Milk

Non-Diet Soda or any Cola

Whole Milk

Fruit Juice

Mixed Alcoholic Drinks

"Sweet Tea"

Menu Items With The Words:

  • Low-Fat

  • Low-Carb

  • Heart-Healthy

  • Low-Calorie

You must be careful with these claims - read the description of the food and use all the information on this page (and elsewhere) to make your decision. Remember that Low-Fat can sometimes mean High-Sugar or Salt and Low-Carb may be High-Fat. Don't just believe the claim; do a little digging and ask questions if the menu doesn't tell you what you need to know.


Here are links to the Nutritional Guides for some popular restaurant chains. I'm not suggesting that you should eat at any of these restaurants, but in this busy world we all live in, you are probably going to find yourself ordering food at one of these places once in a while. When checking these guides remember to pay special attention to, not only calories; but fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium content. You will probably be shocked at the sodium content of some of the items you once thought were a "healthy choice".

Nutrition Action Healthletter

These detailed illustrated reports (All PDF) are available to non-subscribers (Center for Science in the Public Interest). CSPI’s economical monthly newsletters are an award winning source of information on restaurant and supermarket foods  

  • Is that a snack ...or a spurge – Nutritional guide to calorie, fat and sodium content of menu choices at 5 chains including Chipotle, Sbarro and Panera .
  • Italian Restaurant Food: Belly-ismo – Discusses the best menu choices for the most popular Italian restaurant chains, as well as tips for healthy Italian food dining in general.
  • Chinese Restaurant Food – Wok Carefully – Analysis of the nutritional value of take out Chinese food and includes three suggestions for making your restaurant Chinese dinner more healthy.
  • Fresh Mex Study – Talks about the best and worst choices at some of the biggest Mexican chains - Chipotle, Baja Fresh, Rubios, and La Salsa.
  • Beyond Fast Food "Fast Casuals" Come Of Age - Provides guidance on selecting healthy choices when dining at "fast casual" restaurants, such as Au Bon Pain, Panera, and Briazz.

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Do It The Hard Way is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice and guidance from any health care professional. Always seek the advice of your doctor or qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or exercise program and with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions. The creators and participants of this site disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided here.