The Healthiest and Most Sustainable Way To Order At Restaurants

A key philosophy of mine? Dining out doesn’t have to derail your efforts to eat healthier and more sustainable. While I’m all for home cooking, let’s face it: going to restaurants is an enjoyable and sometimes necessary part of life. So here are simple strategies to help you make the best choices for your body (and the planet!), while still enjoying the pleasures of dining out.

Eat the right meat. If you’re a carnivore or a vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs, I strongly believe in finding places that serve naturally, sustainably raised animals. The ideal? A restaurant that sources from local farms, where pasture-raised animals are exposed to the sun and eat grass (and whatever else constitutes their natural diet). A healthy animal=a healthier you. At a minimum, animal foods should be free of hormones and antibiotics, both of which can do to you what they do to the animals: fatten you up and make you resistant to antibiotics.

How’s it been cooked? Overcooking meat makes it hard to digest and, worse, causes carcinogenic compounds to form (especially in the charred or blackened parts). A simple rule of thumb is to request medium rare.

Order lots of vegetables. I know it’s simple and we hear it so often, but most people still don’t do it. Doesn’t matter whether you are a vegan or a carnivore. Just be sure to have several vegetables (especially green leafy ones like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard) with every meal. They’re some of the most nutrient dense foods around. And the more veggies you eat, the more you’ll crowd out cravings for less-beneficial foods. You’ll feel more satisfied (and eat less) and counteract some of the potentially harmful effects of meat and processed dishes. A tip: mix it up with both raw and cooked veggies. (And, whenever possible, opt for restaurants that serve locally grown and/or organic produce.)

Go for good seasonings. Look for dishes seasoned with herbs and spices. Why? Well, they not only add flavor but also they’re packed with healing properties (think immunity-boosting garlic or good-for-digestion ginger). Tumeric, cayenne pepper, and rosemary are other great examples.

Outwit your cravings. Anyone who’s ordered a meal while starving knows how difficult it is to make sound decisions in that situation. Good intentions go right out the window. Which is why it’s smart to snack on some fruit or raw veggies or trail mix with raw nuts 30 to 60 minutes before you arrive at a restaurant. If that’s not an option, try to drink some water right away. And rather than hitting the bread basket and/or ordering hastily, ask your server to bring you a side salad while you peruse the menu.

Follow these suggestions on a consistent basis, and you’ll be able to incorporate the pleasures and convenience of restaurant dining into a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Enjoy!!!

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