I have been in restaurants for over 10 years!
I have been a chef, manager, general manager, and managing partner. I have worked for some well known companies like Applebee’s and some you have never heard of. I have worked with some wonderful chefs and some mean managers. But wherever I go, I know I can still eat healthy. And you can, too!
Everywhere you turn, there is a report about how bad restaurant food is. I am sure you have heard of “Eat This, Not That!”!
Restaurants that have 2500 calorie options and some that have healthy options.
Here are a few tips on how to order at restaurants so you can maintain your healthy lifestyle!
1. Offend the chef
“I do not want to offend the chef, I will order it the way he cooks it.”
Most restaurants could care less if you make adjustments to your food. It is less work to keep mayo off a sandwich. It is just as easy to grill a piece of chicken as it is to fry it. If a restaurant already has a wheat bun, why would they care if you substitute it for the white bun. I talk about courage a lot, and it takes some to ask for what you want. The only people that will be annoyed is your family (my wife thinks it is funny when I do it now) but servers work for tips, so they want to do whatever to impress you.
Secret weapon: If anyone gives you a hard time about getting what you want, say these magic words, “I understand, do you have a number for corporate?” or “Can I talk to your manager?” I guarantee you will get what you want.
2. Don’t be afraid to send it back
Never settle for sub-par food! If your food is fried instead of grilled, be polite and get what you want. No one will mess with it.
Secret weapon: Never get upset. If it is wrong, be kind. Remember, smiles go a long way in the service industry.
3. Quality over quantity
Sometimes it is better to get a small version of what you really want than to get a “healthy” dish you will not be happy with. I suggest not taking the leftovers home. It sounds silly, but if you are going out for your one meal, make it only one meal! I have said before, while they are preparing your food, tell the server to only give you half and give the other half to the dishwasher or cook since they have been working hard. You will have no idea the impact that will have.
Secret weapon: Ask for the salad with your meal. By doing that you will eat less instead of giving your body time to digest.
4. On the side please
Most restaurants give you 1.5 – 2 oz of dressing in a ramekin if you ask for it on the side. That is the best way to get a salad. If you have it mixed in already, you are not in control of your salad. Be in control!
Secret weapon: Not only can you get dressing on the side, but you can also get cheese and other items on the salad on the side. It will keep your portions in line.
5. Sodium overload
I always hear about sodium in restaurants. You know, you can ask for items without seasoning or salt. In fact, just like dressing, you can order it on the side as well.
Secret weapon: Make sure you take care of your server if you ask for a lot of requests.
Here is how I order:
I want the Tilapia. Now, let me explain. I do not want any butter! None! No seasoning at all! Nothing! If it has any I will send it back. I want the vegetables raw and a salad with just lettuce, mushrooms and cucumbers. No dressing.
It is extreme, but I want you to know that you are the reason restaurants do well. Please keep on going out to eat. As many burgers as restaurants have, they are also trying hard to give you more of a healthy variety.
Do not be afraid to ask for what you want.
Photo credit: William Cho