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Dine Out Like a Wellness Pro

Your Guide to Smart Restaurant Choices

by Magdalena Calabrese, MSN and Dr. Carolyn Finnegan

While I love cooking and eating at home, there are times when I don’t feel like cooking, or I feel like being around other people and having new tastes and experiences. Sometimes I just want to go out to eat. This can be challenging though if you’re on an elimination diet.

In this newsletter, our fabulous Functional Nutritionist, Magdalena Calabrese, has crafted essential tips for maintaining a healthy diet when dining out. From selecting the right places, to understanding specialized diets, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in and make your dining-out experiences healthier and more enjoyable.

Tips for Eating Out

General Tips:

  • Choose restaurants that offer healthy options. Look for restaurants that have a variety of grilled, baked, and steamed dishes, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables – ones that offer meal-sized salads are often a  good bet.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants.
  • Check the menu online before you go. This can help you make healthier choices ahead of time.
  • Start with a salad (or a healthy soup) first. It  will take up room in your stomach, help overeating later, and will support healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes. Restaurant portions are often much larger than what we need to eat. Ask for a half portion or split your meal with someone else.
  • Be selective about your condiments. High-fat dressings and sauces can add a lot of calories and unhealthy fats to your meal. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side so you can control how much you use or skip the dressing altogether and ask for extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate special requests. For example, ask for grilled chicken instead of fried chicken, or brown rice instead of white rice.
  • French fries and other fried foods can often contain gluten, especially if they are cooked in the same fryer as gluten-containing foods. If you are on an elimination diet, are gluten sensitive, or have celiac disease, it is important to let your server know ahead of time so that they can take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. It is also best to avoid fried foods altogether, as it can be difficult to ensure that they are gluten-free.
  • Be careful of cross-contamination. This can happen when gluten-containing foods come into contact with gluten-free foods. For example, if a server uses the same utensils to prepare both gluten-containing and gluten-free dishes, there is a risk of cross-contamination.
  • Choose baked, steamed or grilled dishes. These cooking methods do not require the use of flour. Be careful of hidden gluten in soups and stews. Some soups and stews may contain barley or other gluten-containing grains.
  • When you arrive at the restaurant, let your server know that you are gluten-free. They should be able to answer any questions you have about the menu and help you make safe choices.
  • Skip all sugary beverages and opt for water, sparkling water, and herbal teas.

Sushi Restaurants:

  • Choose Sashimi. Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish that is served without rice or any other ingredient. It is simple and contains no soy or gluten.
  • Soy sauce contains gluten. Ask for a gluten free option like Tamari or if you are on an elimination diet ask your server for coconut aminos which are soy and gluten free. You can also bring coconut aminos with you.
  • Choose Nigiri. Nigiri is sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish. Choose salmon and/or yellowfin tuna fish. Avoid the larger fish like ahi tuna, sea bass, mackerel and swordfish.
  • Choose Avocado rolls. These rolls are made with avocado, and/or cucumber, and rice.
  • Choose Salmon rolls. Salmon rolls are made with salmon, avocado, and rice.
  • Skip California rolls or any roll made with imitation crab. Imitation crab often contains egg whites, sugar, starch, and food colorings.
  • Miso soup: Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup made with dashi broth and miso paste. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, so it is not a good option for people on elimination diets. However, you can order miso soup without the miso paste, or you can ask your server if they have a miso- free version.
  • Edamame is steamed soybeans in the pod. It is a good source of protein and fiber. Avoid edamame while on an elimination diet.
  • Seaweed salad is usually a good option. Ask your waiter to skip vegetable oils (sesames oil is ok), and sugar.

Italian Restaurants:

  • Salads: Most Italian restaurants offer a variety of salads, many of which are elimination diet friendly. Look for salads that are made with fresh, simple ingredients, such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and olives. Avoid salads that contain processed meats, cheeses, or dressings. Ask for olive oil and vinegar or olive oil and lemon as a dressing.
  • Soups: Some Italian soups, such as minestrone soup, are also elimination diet friendly. Make sure to ask about the ingredients in the soup before you order, as some Italian soups may contain gluten or other non-compliant ingredients.
  • Grilled or baked fish or chicken: Most Italian restaurants offer grilled or baked fish or chicken dishes. These are healthy and elimination diet-friendly options. Avoid fried or breaded fish or chicken dishes as these may contain gluten or other non-compliant ingredients.
  • Steamed vegetables: Many Italian restaurants offer steamed vegetables as a side dish. This is a healthy and elimination diet-friendly option. Avoid vegetables that are cooked in butter or other unknown sauces.
  • Fruit: Many Italian restaurants offer fresh fruit as a dessert option. This is a healthy and elimination diet-friendly option. Avoid desserts that contain gluten, dairy, or other non-compliant ingredients.
  • Ask the server to hold the cheese on any dishes that you order. Most Italian restaurants are happy to accommodate this request.
  • Avoid dishes that contain pasta or bread. These are not elimination diet-friendly foods.

American Style Restaurants:

  • Choose grilled lean meats or fish and ask for steamed vegetables with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Salad: Many American-style restaurants offer salads as a side dish or as an appetizer. Many even have entreé-sized salads which can be paired with a lean protein. Add grilled steak, fish or chicken to your salad and keep the dressing on the side.

Steak House:

  • Choose grilled steak, chicken, or fish. Avoid any dishes that are breaded and cooked in sauces. Make sure to ask your server to substitute butter with olive oil if you are following an elimination diet.
  • Many steak houses offer steamed vegetables as a side dish. Make sure that they are prepared using olive oil instead of butter, if you are following an elimination diet.
  • Eat your salad first. Many steak houses offer salads. Choose a salad that is made from fresh simple ingredients such as tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, onions, and leafy greens. Salads are made with a variety of nutrients and fiber-rich vegetables. Fiber can help regulate your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer.

Do You Want to Learn More About Healthy Living

As a Functional Medicine Doctor, I can help you find the answers. You can schedule a 15 minute Free Consultation to start the process. I will help you develop a plan to regain your energy, improve your mood, and feel like yourself again. Sign up today for a free consultation.

-Dr. Carolyn Finnegan

Want more health advice? Schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation with Dr. Finnegan.

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