Dining out is a part of life. Whether it's a business lunch, a time to catch up with friends or quality time with the family.
It's unavoidable so let's be prepared.
Here are some "ordering" instructions for every type of cuisine.
Have a quick convo with your server to ensure that the way the food is cooked and prepared is more likely to contain less calories.
Opt for tomato-based sauces:
Choose dishes with tomato-based sauces like marinara or arrabbiata instead of creamy, buttery sauces like Alfredo or carbonara.
Choose whole grain or vegetable-based pasta:
If available, go for whole grain pasta or dishes made with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash to increase fiber and nutrients.
Load up on vegetables: Request extra vegetables in your pasta dishes or order a side of steamed or grilled vegetables to fill you up with fewer calories.
Lean protein choices: Opt for lean proteins like grilled chicken, turkey, or fish instead of heavier options like beef or pork.
Avoid excessive cheese: While cheese can add flavor, ask for a light sprinkle rather than heavy toppings.
Pick grilled proteins: Choose dishes with grilled chicken, shrimp, or fish instead of fried meats like carnitas or chimichangas.
Choose corn tortillas:
If having tacos or enchiladas, opt for corn tortillas over flour to reduce calories and increase fiber content.
Load up on salsa: Salsa is usually low in calories and packed with flavor, so use it as a condiment instead of high-calorie sauces like sour cream or cheese dip.
Choose fajitas: Fajitas with plenty of veggies and lean meat are a good choice. Just go easy on the tortillas and toppings.
Be mindful of portion sizes: Mexican restaurant portions can be large, consider sharing a dish or ordering from the appetizer menu.
Choose grilled, baked, or broiled:
Request your fish or seafood to be prepared using these methods rather than fried or heavily sautéed.
Sauce on the side: Ask for sauces to be served on the side, so you can control the amount you consume.
Start with a salad or broth-based soup: This can help you feel fuller and consume fewer calories during the main course.
Skip the butter: If your dish comes with butter, ask for it to be omitted or use it sparingly.
Opt for seafood as the main dish: Instead of seafood-heavy dishes like pasta or rice, choose a grilled fish or seafood platter with vegetables.
Choose lean meats: Opt for chicken breast, turkey, or lean cuts of beef like sirloin, and avoid fatty options like ribs or brisket.
Go for grilled or smoked: Choose meats that are grilled or smoked instead of those cooked in sugary sauces or deep-fried.
Use BBQ sauce sparingly: While delicious, BBQ sauces can be high in sugar and calories. Use them in moderation or ask for them on the side.
Add vegetable sides: Balance your meal with vegetable sides like grilled asparagus, coleslaw, or a side salad.
Skip the bread and opt for a lettuce wrap: Avoid calorie-dense buns and consider having your BBQ meat wrapped in lettuce instead.
Choose grilled or broiled proteins:
Opt for dishes like bulgogi (marinated grilled meat) or dak gui (grilled chicken) instead of fried options.
Request less sauce: While Korean dishes are flavorful, they can be high in sodium and calories due to sauces. Ask for sauces to be served on the side or request less sauce.
Load up on vegetables: Korean cuisine offers a variety of vegetable side dishes (banchan).
Choose vegetable-heavy options to add more fiber and nutrients to your meal.
Choose brown rice: If available, opt for brown rice over white rice to increase fiber content.
Limit fried appetizers:
While delicious, many Korean restaurants serve fried appetizers like mandu (dumplings). Try to limit these as they can add extra calories.
Opt for sashimi:
Sashimi is a great option as it is just thinly sliced raw fish without rice, reducing carb intake.
Choose rolls with care: Avoid rolls that are fried, have creamy sauces, or tempura batter.
Instead, opt for rolls with fresh fish and vegetable fillings.
Go for brown rice or cucumber wraps: Some sushi restaurants offer rolls made with brown rice or wrapped in cucumber, which can be lighter alternatives to traditional sushi rolls.
Start with miso soup: Miso soup is a low-calorie appetizer that can help control your appetite during the meal.
Use wasabi and ginger: These condiments add flavor without significant calories, and ginger can aid digestion.
Choose lean proteins:
Opt for dishes with lean proteins like grilled fish, chicken, or lean cuts of beef.
Request sauces on the side: French cuisine often involves rich sauces. Asking for them on the side allows you to control the amount you consume.
Start with a salad: Begin your meal with a salad to increase your vegetable intake and help fill you up before the main course.
Choose simple preparations: Look for dishes that are grilled, baked, or roasted rather than those cooked in heavy butter or cream sauces.
Be mindful of portion sizes:
French restaurants can serve large portions, so consider sharing a dish or ordering from the appetizer menu.
Choose lean cuts of meat: Opt for lean cuts of beef like filet mignon or sirloin and trim any visible fat.
Skip the butter: Ask for your steak to be cooked without butter to reduce unnecessary calories.
Choose healthier sides: Instead of loaded baked potatoes or creamy dishes, opt for steamed or grilled vegetables and a side salad.
Control portion sizes: Many steakhouse portions are substantial, consider ordering a smaller portion or sharing with a dining partner.
Enjoy sauce in moderation: If you prefer sauce with your steak, choose lighter options like a mushroom sauce rather than heavy cream-based sauces.
Choose dishes with plenty of vegetables:
Thai cuisine often features dishes with a variety of vegetables, which can add nutrients and fiber.
Request less sugar and oil: Ask for your dishes to be prepared with less sugar and oil to reduce calorie content.
Opt for grilled or steamed proteins: Choose dishes with grilled or steamed chicken, seafood, or tofu instead of fried options.
Start with a clear soup: Tom Yum soup or other clear soups can be a good choice as an appetizer.
Avoid coconut milk-based dishes: While delicious, coconut milk-based curries can be high in calories. Opt for dishes with lighter broth bases.
Choose tandoori dishes:
Tandoori cooking involves marinating meats and vegetables in spices and grilling them, resulting in fewer calories compared to creamy curries.
Opt for tomato-based curries: Choose dishes made with tomato-based sauces rather than cream-based ones.
Watch your rice portions: Indian restaurants often serve large portions of rice. Consider sharing or having half the usual portion.
Choose daal (lentil) dishes: Daal is a good source of protein and fiber, making it a healthy addition to your meal.
Be cautious with appetizers: Many Indian appetizers are fried, so try to limit these or choose healthier options like tandoori vegetables.
Choose steamed dishes:
Look for items labeled as "steamed" on the menu, which are generally lower in calories.
Opt for clear soups: Clear soups like egg drop soup or hot and sour soup can be healthier choices compared to cream-based soups.
Limit fried items: Avoid deep-fried dishes and opt for stir-fried or steamed options instead.
Load up on vegetables: Choose vegetable-heavy dishes to increase your fiber and nutrient intake.
Request less sodium: Ask for dishes to be prepared with less soy sauce or salt to reduce sodium content.
Start with a salad or broth-based soup:
Begin your meal with a salad or clear soup to increase vegetable intake and help control your appetite.
Opt for steamed or grilled proteins: Choose dishes with steamed or grilled chicken, fish, tofu, or shrimp instead of fried options.
Request sauce on the side: Asian-fusion dishes may come with flavorful sauces, but they can also be high in calories. Ask for the sauce to be served on the side, so you can control the amount you use.
Load up on vegetables: Look for dishes that incorporate a variety of vegetables or order a side of steamed or stir-fried vegetables to add more nutrients and fiber to your meal.
Choose brown rice or quinoa: If available, opt for brown rice or quinoa over white rice for a more nutritious and filling option.
Start with a Greek salad:
Greek salads typically contain fresh vegetables, olives, and feta cheese, providing a healthy and delicious appetizer.
Choose grilled proteins: Opt for dishes with grilled chicken, fish, or seafood instead of fried options like moussaka.
Go easy on the cheese: While feta cheese is a popular Greek ingredient, ask for a lighter sprinkling to reduce calorie and fat intake.
Favor tzatziki: Tzatziki sauce, made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic, is a healthier option compared to creamy dressings and sauces.
Enjoy whole grains: Look for dishes that include whole grains like quinoa or bulgur for added fiber and nutrients.
Start with gazpacho: Gazpacho, a cold tomato-based soup, is a refreshing and low-calorie appetizer choice.
Choose grilled or roasted dishes: Opt for dishes that are prepared with grilling or roasting techniques instead of those cooked in heavy sauces or fried.
Embrace tapas: Share a selection of small plates (tapas) to try a variety of dishes without overeating.
Include seafood: Spanish cuisine often features delicious seafood options that are generally lower in calories.
Limit deep-fried dishes: Avoid dishes that are described as "frito" or "fritura," as they are likely to be deep-fried.
Choose grilled or roasted meats:
Opt for dishes with grilled or roasted lean meats like chicken or beef instead of fried options.
Go for vegetable-based stews: Many African cuisines offer flavorful vegetable-based stews that are hearty and nutritious.
Be cautious with fried snacks: While tasty, fried snacks like samosas can be high in calories. Consider sharing or limiting your intake.
Choose whole grains: Look for dishes that include whole grains like couscous or millet for added fiber and nutrients.
Watch portion sizes: African dishes can be quite filling, so consider sharing with others or saving part of your meal for later.
Opt for grilled kebabs:
Choose dishes with grilled chicken, lamb, or fish kebabs for a flavorful and healthier option.
Include meze: Meze dishes often include a variety of vegetable-based appetizers, providing a lighter and nutritious start to your meal.
Choose yogurt-based sauces: Turkish cuisine often features yogurt-based sauces like cacık, which are lower in calories than heavy cream-based sauces.
Go easy on baklava and sweets: Turkish desserts like baklava can be high in sugar and calories. Enjoy them in moderation.
Add greens to your plate: Look for dishes that come with side salads or order a side of steamed vegetables to increase your nutrient intake.
Soul Food Restaurant:
Choose grilled or baked proteins:
Opt for dishes with grilled or baked chicken, fish, or lean cuts of meat instead of fried options.
Go for vegetables: Many soul food restaurants offer delicious vegetable sides like collard greens, okra, or black-eyed peas. Load up on these nutritious options.
Watch portion sizes: Soul food portions can be generous, so consider sharing a meal or taking leftovers home for another day.
Limit creamy or buttery sides: Dishes with heavy cream or butter can be high in calories. Choose vegetable sides without excessive sauces or butter.
Request healthier preparation: Ask if your dish can be prepared with less salt, butter, or oil to reduce calorie and sodium intake.
Southern Food Restaurant:
Choose grilled or roasted proteins: Opt for dishes with grilled or roasted chicken, turkey, or fish instead of fried options.
Savor vegetable-based sides: Many Southern restaurants offer a variety of vegetable sides like green beans, collard greens, or roasted sweet potatoes. Include these nutritious options in your meal.
Go easy on the gravy: While gravies and sauces can add flavor, they are often high in calories and fats. Ask for the gravy to be served on the side or use it sparingly.
Choose whole grains: Look for dishes that include whole grains like brown rice or quinoa for added fiber and nutrients.
Limit sweet and sugary dishes: Southern desserts and sweetened dishes can be calorie-dense. Enjoy them in moderation or opt for fresh fruit for a healthier ending to your meal.