A Guide to Eating Out on a Healthy or Low-Carb Diet
Last updated: March 2022
Eating out is normally a festive and enjoyable experience, however, a restaurant menu can be a difficult thing to navigate. Even though sit-down seating in some restaurants has been closed recently, ordering carry-out is still an option. I personally enjoy having more time to read through a menu from the comfort of my own home, and I feel like it is easier for me to choose a healthy option.
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This is a short and simple guide and in no way a conclusive guide of all of the wonderful food out there! The first section of the guide lists different types of the most popular restaurant cuisines, and a couple of healthy options for typical menu items you would find at that particular type of restaurant. If you follow a low carb diet, additional options or tips are listed below. Lastly, there are tips for what to look for or avoid if following a healthy and/or low carb diet.
The second section lists healthy menu options you can find at chain restaurants that are located throughout the U.S. This section also includes general healthy eating and low-carb tips. Feel free to share your favorite places to eat, or what your go-to healthy meal is when you eat out!
Types of cuisine
Here are healthy options by type of cuisine.
- Coconut curry
- Tom Kha
- Tom Yum
- Lettuce cups
- Green papaya salad
Low carb option: Skip the side of rice.
Tips: Thai food does contain sugar frequently, research ahead of time! Avoid Thai iced tea.
- Miso soup
- Vegetable sushi rolls
Low carb options: Satay skewers, sashimi, hand rolls with no rice.
Tips: Avoid tempura and anything fried.
- Veggie pizza with whole wheat crust
- Roasted veggies
- Roasted chicken
- Veggie wraps
Low carb options: Pizza with cauliflower crust, bun-free burgers, salads.
Tips: Many types of meat in American cuisine are fried and thickly covered in sauces. Opt for roasted/grilled meats and seafood or the plant-based options on the menu.
- Fresh veggie spring rolls
Low carb option: Get pho without the noodles.
Tips: Avoid sugary boba drinks, and instead of fried egg rolls, get the fresh spring rolls.
Middle Eastern + Greek
- Shish kabobs
- Baba ganoush
- Grilled veggies
- Roasted/grilled meats
- Marinated veggies
Low carb option: Greek salad, grilled meats and veggies. Avoid/limit flatbreads, pita, white rice.
Tips: Avoid fried meats. Try to find baked falafels, rather than fried!
Low carb option: Stick to tomato-based curries and vindaloos without rice or side of naan.
Tips: Samosas are delicious, but more often than not they are fried. Best to avoid!
- Minestrone soup
- Caprese salad
- Grilled fish
Low carb option: All of the above!
Tips: If ordering pasta, try to fill up with soup or salad first so you are less likely to eat too much pasta. A good option is pasta primavera, which comes with a variety of veggies and sometimes a protein.
- Veggie combo
This is one of my favorite foods to get if I am eating out. The veggie plate normally comes with lentil dishes cooked in different spices, slow-cooked greens, cabbage, and carrots, and is served on top of Ethiopian fermented flatbread, called injera.
Low carb option: Avoid injera.
These restaurants have multiple locations found throughout the United States.
General low carb tips
Avoid rice, bread, tortillas, sugary drinks, alcohol, and chips while eating out at these restaurants.
General healthy eating tips
When ordering a meal, choose to split an entree with someone. Restaurant meals are often several serving sizes. Be mindful of salad dressings, which are often very high in calories. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice are easy to ask for instead. Many restaurants are happy to accommodate your dietary needs and preferences, just be polite and ask!
Healthy options at specific chain restaurants
- California Pizza Kitchen: Lettuce wraps, bowls, salads, soups, and even a cauliflower crust pizza for those looking to eat a low-carb meal!
- Sweetgreen: Build your own salad, grain bowl, or plate. Very easy to customize for dietary preferences.
- True Food Kitchen: The entire menu takes a "whole-foods, plant-based" approach, pretty much all menu items are a safe bet for eating healthy.
- Flower Child: Many grain bowl, plates, and salad options. You can build your own plate of delicious veggie side dishes plus an entree with your protein of choice.
- Chipotle: Veggie brown rice bowls, salads, tacos. Chipotle can accommodate vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, and paleo diets!
- Subway: Look for the "Fresh Fit" menu.
- Noodles &a Company: Try getting a dish with zucchini noodles!
- Panera Bread: Many healthy salads, soup, and sandwich options.
- Soup Plantation: Soups, salads, many veggie side dishes, and good protein options. Very accommodating for different diets.
Traveling? Read more suggestions here.
As mentioned before, in no way is this a complete guide to eating out. We want to hear what your favorite restaurants are, and what dishes you like to order when you go out to eat!
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