How to Make Any Restaurant Dish Healthier

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Going out this weekend? I've got ten quick tips to help you keep your diet on track while you have some fun! These are all super simple, and totally effective adjustmets you can make to any restaurant dish for a healthier experience. 

01. Get sauces and dressings on the side, better yet, substitute olive oil and lemon juice for any dressing or sauce.

02. Ask to substitute cheese with avocado. I once lived near a vegetarian restaurant that would let me replace cheese with avocado at no extra cost! It was the best thing ever. 

03. Stick to water or wine. Make sure to read the whole drink menu or ask your server for a healthier suggestion. I used to work at a restaurant that offered freshly made fruit and vegetable juices and a lot of customers didn't realize because they never read the beverage menu! We also had organic teas that weren't even listed on the menu. It never hurts to ask questions, that's what the server is there for. 

04. Ask for half of the dish boxed and eat it tomorrow for lunch. Sometimes you don't necessarily need to make a dish healthier, just smaller. 

05. Replace buns and breads with lettuce wraps or omit them completely. In college, I would order my favorite sandwich without the bread and eat it as a super delicious salad instead. The staff was so nice that they usually discounted my meal or threw in a free drink to make up for the fact that I omitted the bread. 

06. Go for lean fish or meat, even better to order the veggie platter! Things like grilled salmon and steamed veggies are pretty healthy as long as they aren't served with a ton of oil or creamy sauces. Stay away from fatty cuts of meat like ribeye steaks and pork chops.

07. Sub out regular fries for sweet potato fries or a vegetable. Places like Red Robin and other chains often have a substitute for fries like broccoli, carrot fries, or a salad. If you don't see anything on the menu, ask! Back in my serving days, I would often suggest people order a side of sautéed kale or a cup of soup if they didn't want fries, neither of which were on the menu as substitution options. 

08. Ask that they don't add any salt or oil. This is a super simple, but very effective request.

09. Ask that the chef steam or grill something rather than fry it. Sometimes just changing the cooking method can be very effective. 

10. Need a burger? Substitute a veggie patty for the meat and make sure they don't add any mayonnaise. You'll save a ton of fat and calories. This is also a great time to go for a lettuce wrap instead of a bun and a side salad rather than fries.

These tips are sure to keep your diet on track and help you eat a little better when you're away from home or on vacation. Don't feel bad asking for modifications, the kitchen and wait staff are used to it, trust me! They want you to be happy and enjoy your food. If there is something they can't or don't want to do for you, they will just say they can't accommodate your request and probably offer an alternative. No biggie! 

If you are able to, do your research before going out. As a vegan, I often read reviews and menus online to see just how vegan-friendly restaurants near me are. That's actually how I found out that vegetarian restaurant near my house was super accommodating to vegans by offering a free avo substitution. You can also call ahead and ask if any of the modifications you might want are doable for the restaurant. Keep in mind that busier restaurants or places with a smaller kitchen staff might have trouble fulfilling some of your requests.

When in doubt, ask questions. The worst thing that could happen is you'll get, "no" for an answer. I once had a server sit down at the table and go through the menu with me, offering up different modifications he knew he could make happen. You might be pleasantly surprised by how beneficial being upfront and asking questions can be! 

Now go enjoy a guilt-free meal and have some fun!