7 Ways to Eat Out and Eat Smart

By: Wendy Wu, R.D., M.S.

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Priorities. Priorities. Priorities. Not all of us have the time or know-how to prepare our own lunch for work. So most of us rely heavily on what’s available to us in the neighboring restaurants. Since I worked in Jamaica Estates (Queens), New York I didn’t have the luxury of fresh foods from Pret A Manger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Japanese Sushi/Sashimi, Chiptole, or Baja Fresh. Instead, I was surrounded by McDonald’s, KFC, Deli’s, Chinese take-out , Pizza Joints, Mexican Food, and Subway sandwiches. If you have to eat out and want to watch what you eat, the following post will be of help to you. I’ll give you some tips on how to eat out but also eat smart.

There are always healthier options in fast food restaurants, you just have to know what and how to order.

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1) Burger Joints like McDonald’s:

-Single Patty Hamburger w/out cheese or sauce + Small Salad w lightly drizzled balsamic or lite Italian dressing (try not to use the entire pack)

-Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap (skip the ranch dressing if you can)

-Grilled Chicken Salad with lightly drizzled dressing

-If you insist on fries, ask for a small fresh batch without salt (they might give you a look but if more people asked then maybe they’ll have a unsalted batch readily available; give the people who want salt a packet on the side)

-Walnut/apple slices

-Water or small soda (if you must)

*The McDonald’s sweet tea is a killer! A 32oz Large (standard size) has 17 packets of sugar!!!! Can’t compare to a large coke that has 22 packets though. I suggest a small size or drinking it once a week if at all.*

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2) Fried Chicken places like KFC:

-Original recipe chicken. Max: 3 pieces (I know the skin is the best part so I won’t ask you to peel it off-but if you can…do it)

-small mashed potatoes w/ a little gravy, corn on a cob, potato salad or cole slaw (if you can, sweep the mayo aside)

-water or small soda (if you must)

deli sanwich happy dietitian

3) Deli’s:

-Low sodium turkey or ham sandwich with tomato, lettuce, and a slice of pickle on a whole wheat bread (skip the mayo and cheese-if you must, choose mozzarella or Swiss cheese)

-Veggie burgers are surprisingly delicious. Give them a try.

-Yogurt or cottage cheese+ box of fresh fruit

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4) Chinese Take-out:

-Steamed white meat chicken with broccoli or mixed veggies

-Tofu with veggies and garlic sauce

-Eggplant with garlic sauce

-Stir fried noodles with shrimp or chicken and extra veggies (tell them to add $1 extra) with No salt and No MSG.

*Ask for sauce on the side (if possible) and brown rice

*Opt for the hot and sour soup which is freshly made with tofu and veggies. Egg drop has artificial coloring and wonton soup base is pure MSG.

*Always tell them Less or No salt, and No MSG. Make it a point! Tell them soy sauce is enough for flavor and that the last time your ordered, it was too salty. They just worry that you’ll return the food if it’s not tasty.

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5) Pizza and Pasta:

-Thin Crust

-Extra Veggies

-Half the amount of cheese

-Whole Wheat Pasta with tomato sauce. For added protein, ask for a little mozzarella cheese on the pasta and have them bake the dish (opt out of creamy white sauces).

-Sauteed broccoli with whole wheat penne in garlic and a little bit of olive oil

-Spaghetti with clams (garlic and oil or tomato sauce)

-Skip the oil drenched garlic bread-have a plain roll or bread stick instead

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6) Mexican:

-Grilled Chicken or shrimp soft taco with tomato and lettuce

-Grilled Chicken or shrimp salad

-Veggie burrito

-Ask for “Fresco” style (no dairy) tacos

*A scoop of Rice and Beans, Salsa and Guacamole are healthy choices

*Limit Sour Cream and Cheese

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7) Subway:

-6 inch lean meat (chicken breast, roast beef, turkey or ham) sandwich loaded with veggies on whole wheat bread

-6 inch veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread

*Skip the mayo and cheese (if you must-add one or two slices of mozzarella or Swiss)

*Ask for pepper and red vinegar for flavor

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In a nutshell:

-Choose lean meat

-Avoid high fat sauces (mayo, creamy sauces, creamy dressing), Salt, Sugar and unwanted additives (food coloring/MSG)

-Load up on the veggies and fruits

-Choose low-fat cheeses like mozzarella or Swiss

-Portion control. Variety of small orders is better than one large order (ex: single patty hamburger + side salad vs. one huge 3 patty burger loaded with cheese and mushrooms)

Related Articles:

7 Reasons Why You Don’t Want Diabetes

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10 Great Snacks

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10 Appetizers

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8 Delicious Fresh Fruit Juices

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How many packs of sugar are in Arizona Iced Teas

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11 thoughts on “7 Ways to Eat Out and Eat Smart

  1. Oh ok – I knew all of this but it never hurts to refresh our brains. Today my hubby wanted to go to Pappadeaux’s – a cajun restaurant very popular in the area we live. Before we left home I checked their calorie count on most foods and felt good with my lunch choice of Shrimp Etouffe at around 400 calories and I only ate half! It’s remarkable how the stuff on a menu “sounds” healthy but can have upwards of 800 calories. Down right scary to me. I pretty much – about 90% of the time stay away from fast food chain restaurants anyway.

    Have purchased the ALBA skin care wash and moisturizer and so far am loving it. I continue to refer back to the site you linked to find locations where I can purchase more products for skin care. Still so glad you posted that. I am however, disappointed that Origins is not on the list 😦

    1. A typical fast food meal is normally around 1000 calories. So scary!

      Oh..I’ll have to try ALBA.

      What I noticed when I was shopping the other day is that hand soaps also contain SLS. I don’t know if I will go as far as bringing my own hand soap everywhere I go though. =)

      1. Yes I suppose we need to draw a line somewhere….The Alba body lotion is wonderful. I’ve been using it for about 10 years. Loving the face stuff too – let me know what you think.

  2. My boyfriend loves Burger King. He has some sort of freaky metabolism that enables him to consume ridiculous amounts of garbage and maintain his status as a 6’2″ block of muscle. I do not have this magical ability, not by any stretch of the imagination. I also maintain that the Burger King menu contains not one edible thing unless you’re having a burger… suggestions for when I am forced to drive thru so he can get his fix? Or should I just be hungry?

    1. Oh no, don’t starve yourself!

      I’d go with the whopper junior without mayo. See if you can eat just one bun.

      The grilled chicken salad can be an alternate…and just go easy on the salad dressing.


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