Eating Out the Healthy Way

RestaurantWe have no shortage of phenomenal food choices in Houston: Tex Mex, Thai, Pizza, Jamaican, Indian, Italian, Seafood, Sushi, Vietnamese, and more. One reason I enjoy Houston is the restaurant scene and the last thing I want to do is deprive myself of trying all these amazing cuisines. So, I don’t!

A whole food, plant-based diet just means a more exciting meal. Instead of letting your healthy habits fly out the window on the way to the restaurant, embrace it and accept it as a challenge to find the restaurants with the most delicious plant-based options. Here are a few things I take into consideration when eating out.

What type of cuisine style is the restaurant? Unfortunately, restaurants that serve “American foods” are the most challenging. Typically all American-style menus…

  • Lack nutrient-rich foods such veggies and fruit
  • Center around meat and/or cheese – think burgers, wings, BBQ, and nachos
  • Are heavy on fried foods (french fries, mozzarella sticks, chips)
  • Are topped with fat, sugar and salt filled sauces

Just as the Western diet is the least healthy on the planet, we’ve created the least healthy restaurants. When I find myself at one of these places I first glance at the soups and salads–you might strike gold here. Another go-to, a baked potato– hold the cheese and sour cream and add some grilled onions and mushrooms. Lastly, see if they offer a veggie burger or black bean burger. Ask if it’s made in house. If it is, sign me up! If they offer other burgers like a southwest style or Mexican style you can sub the beef patty for the black bean patty. Or ask if guacamole, peppers, grilled onions and mushrooms, etc. can be added and for whole grain bun. Some restaurants have information on which menu items are free of animal products and which are not. When asking politely, we’ve always found that restaurants are more than happy to accommodate.

Restaurant Vegetable SushiWe’ve found that most nice restaurants have plant-based options that the menu doesn’t list. Recently at a fancy steakhouse in Indy, Natalie asked if they had a plant-based option and they brought out a big, colorful and spicy plate of stir-fry. Can you imagine the nutrient difference between this and the typical entrée of steak and pile of mashed potatoes? It was delicious, healthy and only $14 (quite a savings compared to the $55 filet).

For more plant-based options and less work you should look outside of our unfortunate homeland cuisine. Often Jamaican, Thai, Vietnamese, and Sushi restaurants have a section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes. This is awesome because they do the work for you. Other cultures focus their diet around veggies and starches therefore they’re the experts when it comes to flavor. Believe it or not when my husband and I go to our favorite Thai restaurant he orders a veggie and tofu dish but asks them to hold the tofu and add more veggies. You know the veggies are good when that happens! Bonus tip –while rice is usually the standard, just ask to swap for brown rice.

Restaurant Salad Bar
If you’re a pizza lover, like us, don’t deprive yourself of pizza! I recommend ordering a veggie loaded pizza, hold the cheese. If you love Mexican food, take advantage of the veggies, beans, and rice on the menu and forgo the meat and cheese. Your dish will have more than enough flavor, I promise. If you love sushi, try the veggie rolls, seaweed salad, and edamame. Salads can be underwhelming when you cut out meat and cheese because most restaurants don’t offer much else on their salads. Our favorite spots are those with extensive salad bars (Jason’s Deli, Salata). Load your salad up with veggies, beans, hummus, nuts, and dried fruit!

If you love eating out (who doesn’t?) don’t deprive yourself of that luxury. Sticking to a whole food, plant-based diet does require more thought, but as you discover new dishes, flavors, and cuisines, it’s no longer a sacrifice but instead an opportunity.

If there are any go-to restaurants or plant-based dishes that you enjoy please include them in a comment below.


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