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Top 10 Restaurants To Dine At That Won't Blow Your Diet

9 minute read

More and more people are eating out these days. The prevalence of processed and fast foods can be concerning. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, do you need to stop eating out? Not at all.  Fast food chains were created to satisfy a need for convenience, but quick does not have to mean bad. Many food chains have added healthy options to their menus to cater to those who want to grab a nutritious meal quickly.

It didn't take long for the health-conscious population to win over these restaurants. Businesses have a financial motive to give people what they want. Since there is still demand for processed and fried foods, the only way to cater to everyone was to expand the menu.  Now, everyone can eat an affordable meal on the go.  As beneficial as a home cooked meal is, we do not always have the time between work, school, kids’ sports, recitals and meetings.  

What to Eat and Not to Eat

The basic rules are eating more salad, fewer fries, pass on the bread and have your dressing or sauce on the side.  While these are all great ways to stay healthy, it is important to remember that you deserve an occasional treat. The key is moderation. When you are dining out, remember these tips as you gaze over the menu and you'll find that you don't have to restrict yourself to a leaf of lettuce and one noodle.

Give in to your cravings: Sometimes it is actually better to give in a little than to completely ignore them. Cravings tend to grow when ignored and you may end up eating more than if you had just ordered that starter that appealed to you.

Start with a side: You already know to look past all the fried goodies on the menu, and a salad may have too much cheese. So look at the side vegetables as a starter instead. You can also combine a few side dishes as your main meal.

Grill the server: Not to eat but to find out what you are eating! Ask your server how the food is prepared and how much salt or butter is used. That way, you can make an informed decision as to what to eat.

| Related: The Pleasure Principle: Why We Love Sugar, Salt, and Fat |

You first: Make sure you order your meal first. Then, you won't be tempted by everyone else's indulgent choices because you’ve already made up your mind. You might even want to browse an online menu to pick what you want before you get to the restaurant.

Make a plan for drinks: Ask for water first because it will fill you up and you won't have room for soda or wine.

Change your attitude: If you maintain a healthy diet throughout the week, you can tell yourself that you deserve a treat. It is always a treat to not have to cook, so don't think you have to stay home to be healthy. As long as you are prepared, you can treat yourself to a nice healthy meal out.

Top 10 Restaurants With Healthy Options

Thankfully, the quick option no longer has to be a greasy, artery-clogging option. Most of the chains are favorites, which mean you know you will get the quality and taste you love, just in a healthier format. The guide below features the top 10 restaurants offering healthy options that you must try.

1. Chipotle

This chain was the forerunner for fast casual dining. They removed MSG from all menu items and promised to improve the quality of their food by removing salt-laden tortillas and preservatives. Chipotle offers delicious salads for their health- conscious patrons. You can get a fully balanced meal complete with carbs by adding any of the beans on the menu. Additionally, you can top your salad with the fajita vegetables, which are densely packed with nutrition and taste.

2. Panera

Given that the focus of this chain is centered on bread, it may not feel like the healthiest choice.  However, bread does not have to be a health concern when in moderation. Also, there are alternatives such as wraps that are not as high in calories. The “Pick Your Two” special at Panera allows you to choose a balanced meal, while managing your portions. The Turkey & Avocado BLT paired with a Seasonal Green Salad is perfect. The half a sandwich does not overload you with carbs and the avocado only helps you better absorb all the disease-fighting compounds found in the salad.

3. Applebee’s

When it is time to eat with the family, Applebee’s is a popular choice. Luckily, they offer a range of foods to appeal to everyone's tastes. The menu still has plenty of choices for those who want to be indulgent but you can pick from their healthier choice menu. The pepper-crusted sirloin is the ideal balanced meal to fit in with your plan. Low fat, iron-rich meat, served on a bed of whole grains, spinach and grape tomatoes, provides you with nutrients and antioxidants to fight off cancers and artery disease.  

4. Olive Garden

When you think of this place one thing comes to mind: pasta, breadsticks and more pasta. Can you say carbohydrate overload? Thankfully, they offer choices that are lighter for the health-conscious person. The herb-grilled salmon dinner is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and you can ask for the butter sauce on the side. Served with broccoli instead of a pasta dish, you will reach a state of fullness without being stuffed.

5. Chick Fil-A

A number of salads are offered here with dark leafy greens that protect the heart and immune system. Certain salads come with antioxidant-filled berries to fight all the free radicals in your system and ward off heart disease or Alzheimer's disease. Add grilled chicken to any salad for a perfect dose of protein to keep you full and satisfied until the next meal.

| Related: A Delicious Heart-Healthy Recipe To Cook At Home |

6. Boston Market

So popular for their delicious sides, Boston Market has a reputation for their mouth-watering comfort foods. When you are trying to stay fit and healthy, comfort does not fit in the routine.  Try roast chicken, veggies and mashed potatoes, which only have 9 percent of your daily fat recommendation. For a fast food, cheap option, this meal will hit the spot like any home cooked comfort meal but won't go straight to your hips.

7. Jack in the Box

Fast food at its best.  Jack in the Box is definitely for food on the go and thankfully, when your time is limited, they do offer some healthy options. A chicken fajita pita with salsa is packed with protein-filled chicken, whole grain pita, and a tangy salsa for taste. Healthy food doesn't have to be bland and their options certainly prove you can get nutritious food on the go.

8. Starbucks

Even though caffeine is not the best choice for a healthy diet, people just cannot live without their coffee or tea in the morning. While you get to drool over the delicious cookies and baked treats, Starbucks now offers healthy breakfast choices. A reduced-fat turkey bacon sandwich on a low-carb English muffin will give you the protein and just the right amount of calories to get your day moving.

9. Kentucky Fried Chicken

The name itself sounds unhealthy but you don't have to order the fried chicken and biscuits.  KFC offers a grilled chicken option that is just as flavorful as its fried counterpart. Pair with a side of green beans and corn instead of potatoes and gravy, and you get a protein-packed lunch with nutrients to spare. Much better than consuming grease and fat and ending up with an extra stomach roll to spare.

10. Red Lobster

You can't go wrong with seafood. Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids out there, and Red Lobster has a bunch of it. Treat yourself to lobster (butter on the side) and some fresh vegetables for a delicious and nutritious meal.


The Bottom Line

No matter where you go, healthy choices are offered on menus today, because of the increase in health conscious people in the country. You don't have to deprive yourself of a nice night out or a quick bite on the go just because you are counting calories. Even when places do not have a healthy menu, they usually offer healthy versions of their favorites. For example, many burger places will provide the bun-free versions of their sandwiches. So treat yourself every once in awhile—just choose wisely.

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  2. http://www.eatthis.com/low-calorie-restaurant-meals/
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  4. https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-healthy-eating-out