How would you like to eat 500 calories or less instead of 1,000 calories when going out to restaurants?
Meals in restaurants are oversized and follow improper portion sizes. Usually the meat is the main dish and covers half of your plate while vegetables are just on the side, if present at all.
Just to show you some of the insanity: The average restaurant meal contains more than 1,000 calories. The same meal home cooked would be more like 700-800 calories, but a healthy vegan home cooked meal would be more like 400-500 calories.
Vegan or not, restaurant food is filled with salt, sugar, and fat. It doesn’t matter if you pick the healthiest option on the menu, you will still get either fast food sugar, salt, and fat, casual dining sugar, salt, and fat, or fine dining sugar, salt, and fat.
The negative side of this is that eating too often at restaurants will train your taste to only want these types of foods. As a result, homemade steamed veggies taste boring and you might find yourself craving restaurant food.
You can still make good choices and enjoy the occasional restaurant visit. Turning your meal into a vegan meal, or at least adding more veggies to your meal, will help you reduce calories and increase your daily intake of vegetables.
Eating more plants will fill your stomach quicker and you’ll feel much lighter after the meal. You might decrease after-meal tiredness and stay full for longer. As an added benefit, this vegan restaurant guide is also great if you want to lose weight.
Most restaurants have vegetarian options, but not all have vegan options. When we first started a vegan diet we barely went out to eat because we didn’t know what to order and weren’t sure what ingredients restaurants use.
While this saves lots of money and is much healthier, every once in a while you want to enjoy the luxury of going out to eat, right?
Below you will learn how to cut your restaurant meal’s calories in HALF!
Here are some main tips to eat healthier in restaurants:
- choose steamed vegetables instead of fries as a side
- aim for the bean burger to decrease saturated fat and increase fiber
- if all else fails, make a platter of sides, mostly vegetables
- swap ranch dressing with balsamic or Italian dressing
- always drink lots of water
- share a large meal with your partner or kids
- eat slowly and until you are 80% full, then stop and take the rest home
Extra tip: Always make sure to order: NO cheese, NO butter. Because even if you don’t order cheese, some restaurants just automatically add it to your meal. Now let’s see how you can eat healthier in specific restaurants.
Easy Vegan Restaurant Guide – How to Eat Healthier In Restaurants
This one seems to be easiest. You can check the vegetarian section and then make sure to ditch the sour cream and cheese. The meal that seems to be best and most common to veganize is the vegetable fajitas. Usually they come with rice, beans, and guacamole.
Chipotle is another great option for vegans. You can simply pick all the plant based foods you want. And the guacamole is free if you choose the veggie bowl option!
Taco Bell offers a bean burrito where you can leave out the cheese and add pico de gallo to it (order is fresco).
The options in an Italian restaurant are a little more limited. You can always get the good old pasta with marinara sauce, and I would add a side of steamed veggies like broccoli to it.
For example: If you go to Olive Garden your chicken parmesan contains over 1,000 calories. If you choose the whole wheat linguine, marinara, and steamed veggies (broccoli) you are at 575 calories, 21g of fiber, and 24g of protein. AND you save about $4. Great, isn’t it?
Usually, the original hand-tossed crust is vegan, but always check to make sure (no butter). You can order your pizza without cheese, but ask them to add more marinara instead. Then top with veggies. Sometimes the dips on the side are vegan, too, which is a great way to spice up your meal.
We like to order the original crust from Papa John’s and top with mushrooms and bell peppers. Pizza Hut is another hand-tossed vegan crust option.
Some Asian restaurants offer a buffet style meal, which makes it easy to pick lots of plant based foods. Sometimes you won’t know if they cook certain things in butter or oil, therefore, you can simply ask to make sure.
You can also pick vegetable sushi which still tastes great, or rice, steamed veggies, and edamame. Edamame is an amazing source of plant based protein and you should definitely try it on your next visit.
You can order a veggie burger in most restaurants now. But, not all are vegan. TGI Friday’s carries the beyond burger, some other restaurants carry the impossible burger, too. The veggie patty from Denny’s is vegan, as well. Before you go to the restaurant do a quick Google search and make sure your preferred restaurant’s patties are vegan.
Order the burger without cheese and add broccoli to the side instead of fries. Some sauces might also be vegan (BBQ sauce for example). Here is a comparison from Denny’s:
A veggie burger on a whole wheat bun with a side of fruit is 300 calories. This gives you room to add toppings like avocado, s
On the other side, a whole wheat bun with beef patty and American cheese is already 630 calories without any side or topping! If you add the french fries you are well above 1,000 calories again.
Simple: Veggie sandwich without cheese. Pick whole wheat if possible. You can toast your sandwich and add guacamole. Then add as many veggies as you’d like. To spice things up add onion, pickles, banana peppers, and other flavorful toppings. You can also add herbs and a balsamic dressing.
I hope this guide helped you find better food options at restaurants. Please check each restaurant’s food items and ingredients before heading there so you get an idea of what to order and can enjoy your time eating out.