When eating out, what should I order to stay on a heart healthy diet?

Cindy Gay

Dark leafy salads with colorful raw fruits or vegetables, nuts, turkey, grilled chicken or baked fish are good choices. Olive oil and vinegar dressings are the best choices for dressings. Always ask for dressing on the side so you can control the portions.

Ask for whole grain baguette, whole wheat bread or whole wheat roll (unbuttered).

Baked potato (watch for restaurants that add salt to the skin), no butter.

Steamed vegetables without added salt or fat.

Baked fish, chicken or flank steak. Small tenderloin fillet (without the bacon wrap)


Skim Milk

Fresh fruit


Doreen Rodo

Eating healthy when eating out is a challenge. The first thing that you need to look for is items that are grilled, steamed or baked. Avoid fried foods and items in cream sauces. Asked for a steamed vegetable instead of fries. For coleslaw, substitute a small side salad with the dressing on the side or with oil and vinegar. If fresh fruit is available, opt for a serving instead of a cake or pie dessert. Fish, salmon, and other seafood are usually good choices as long as they aren't fried. Stay away from beef unless it is lean, otherwise, an item like a burger is loaded with fat. Look for a healthy item icon on the menu because some restaurants are using it to tell consumers what items are the best for good health. If in doubt, don't order the item and instead opt for something that you know is not loaded with fat and calories.

Fast food restaurants in particular can be very convenient, but fast foods also tend to be higher in fat, sodium, and calories. You can choose lower fat, lower sodium, and lower calorie foods from the menu. Healthy choices include:

  • Order sandwiches without mayonnaise, tartar sauce, or special sauce. Try mustard or low-fat mayonnaise instead.
  • Order a small, plain hamburger instead of a deluxe or super-sized sandwich.
  • Order sandwiches made with lean roast beef or turkey.
  • Choose grilled chicken sandwiches instead of breaded chicken sandwiches.
  • Choose rotisserie-style chicken rather than fried chicken. Choose a breast or drumstick instead of the wing or thigh. Always remove the skin.
  • Order pizza with vegetable toppings, and ask for ½ the usual amount of cheese. Blot your pizza with a napkin to remove excess grease.
  • Choose water, fruit juice, or low fat or fat free milk rather that a soda or milk shake.
  • Buy the smallest size nonfat yogurt instead of cookies or pies.

It is possible to eat out with friends and family while maintaining healthy eating habits and progressing towards your goals.

Here are a few tips to keep you on track:

  • Check out the menu online before you go to the restaurant. This way you will not be subject to your hunger pangs. Decide ahead of time and tell a spouse or friend what you are going to order before you go, if you need additional accountability. Once you have made a decision, resolve to stick with it and reduce the struggle. Avoid the bread and chip baskets. These empty calories add up quickly and often set the tone for the meal to follow. Indulges tend to snowball.
  • When reading the meal descriptions, there are a few key words that send up a warning signal… avoid foods described as:  Fried, breaded, battered, creamy, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, stuffed. Choose foods described as:  Grilled, poached, steamed, broiled, baked and roasted. Even if a food sounds healthy, it may be prepared with extra fats, so, don’t be afraid to ask for meat to be cooked “dry” (without added oil) and vegetable steamed without added fats.
  • When ordering salads, check for low fat dressings and order them on the side so that you can control the portions. Oil & vinegar are always healthy options. Request the salad with no croutons, crispy noodles or extras that may add unnecessary calories.
  • Don’t be afraid to order off the menu. I frequently will go to a restaurant and tell them that I would like a chicken breast grilled dry with a double side of steamed veggies without oil.  Sometimes it is hard to be the only one at the table not eating your favorite foods.
Here are a few things to help you stick to your plan:
  • Recall your goals. How badly do you want to fit into those jeans, improve your blood profile or be a good example to your children and those around you?
  • Plan for special occasions. You don’t always have to be a nutritional saint.  If you really would like meal X, then decide ahead of time to eat ½ or swap out the side of fries for a side of steamed veggies. It does not have to be all or nothing decision. Make the best choice possible and move on. Make your next meal a healthy one. If you have a Smart Phone, download an app with restaurant calorie counts. These figures are just estimates but they will help you make an educated decision.

Continue Learning about Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Your circulatory system is made up of your heart and three main types of blood vessels -- arteries, veins and capillaries. Your heart is at the center of the system, acting as a pump to distribute nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood t...

hrough your body; it then takes away carbon dioxide and other waste your body doesn't need. Signs of poor circulation include cold hands and feet, numbness, dizziness, migraines, varicose veins and pain in your feet or legs. Untreated, poor circulation can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, kidney damage and other diseases. Learn more about your heart and circulatory system with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.