Eating out can quickly throw a monkey wrench in your health plan. But don’t despair. With a little planning ahead, you can be a defensive diner while still enjoying your favorite restaurants.

Tips for Eating Out

  • Avoid super-sized portions
  • Share your food
  • Skip dessert
  • Put half the meal in a takeout container before you start eating
  • Ask for substitutions
  • Limit sides and extras
  • Avoid fried and fatty foods
  • Look in the side dishes section of the menu in most restaurants and find a good selection of unprocessed vegetables

Fast Food Restaurant Options

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Look for a place that offers salads, veggie burgers, baked potatoes, vegetable sandwiches, or bean burritos. Here are a few options:

  • Burger King: Garden patty veggie burger (hold the cheese and mayo).
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill: Burrito bowl with beans, veggies, rice, and guacamole (hold on the cheese and sour cream, ask for a small portion of brown rice).
  • Panera Bread: Vegetarian Black Bean Soup, Mediterranean Veggie sandwich on whole grain (omit the feta cheese), Soba Noodle Bowl, Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto (omit the pesto), Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad (omit the chicken).
  • Subway: Veggie Delite or Veggie Patty Sandwich (hold on cheese and creamy condiments. Eat as an open-faced sandwich with half the bread).
  • Taco Bell: Basically, any protein on the menu can be replaced by beans or potatoes, so the entire menu is available. In particular, we like the 7 Layer Burrito (fresco style), Bean Burrito (fresco style plus lettuce and tomato), Cantina Veggie Power Bowl or Burrito (hold on the cheese and sour cream), rice and bean burrito with lettuce and tomato (hold the cheese).
  • Starbucks: Oatmeal bowl

Dine-in Restaurant Options

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  • Mexican: Bean burrito with veggies and salsa (Ask for less oil, skip cheese and meat, don’t overdo the chips!)
  • Asian/Thai fod: Try a vegetable stir fry or rice and curry. Maximize non starchy vegetables and make sure to choose brown rice, if it’s available.
  • Italian: Minestrone soup and salad (A good option at Olive Garden)
  • Mediterranean: Pita bread with falafel, hummus, and tabbouleh
  • American: Veggie burgers or wraps, healthy salads (add beans if possible), choose fruit for dessert 

Frozen Dinner Options

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Here are a few brands to check out for plant-based frozen dinners:

  • Amy’s
  • Gardein
  • Boca
  • Kim’s Simple Meals
  • Praiger’s
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Kashi
  • Tofurkey


About the Author

Elise Harboldt, RN, BSN

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