Healthy Menu Choices by Cuisine

Claire Bush

Don't let restaurant meals throw a curveball into your diet and exercise plan. With a little advance planning, ordering a healthy meal is do-able, whether the cuisine is Chinese, Indian, Italian or American. Here's a rundown of what to choose and what to avoid.

  • Chinese: Opt for broth based soups like wonton, egg drop and hot and sour to begin the meal. Steer clear of deep fried crab rolls, order steamed rice instead of fried and choose beef, chicken or seafood stir-fries with brown sauce instead of deep fried entrees like Kung Pao chicken or beef. Ask if MSG is used in seasoning. Don't add extra soy sauce at the table; it boosts the already-high sodium content.
  • Thai: Select rice or vermicelli-based soups, adding your own fresh herbs and vegetables. Avoid sticky-sweet pudding desserts, fried spring rolls and deep fried fish and vegetables. Pad Thai (veggies and beef or poultry stir-fried in a peanut sauce) is fine, in reasonable portions.
  • Barbecue: Order chicken on the bone, or beef or pork ribs without extra sauce. Skip the french fries, onion rings and potato salad and try coleslaw, baked beans or plain baked potato instead. Hold the honey butter on cornbread.
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  • Indian: Pass on the basket of naan bread and order tikka (clay oven) baked chicken or lamb instead of rich, fat-laden curries. Vegetables in Indian restaurants tend to be deep fried and served in sauce. Opt for fluffy rice as a side instead. Try a glass of tea or lassi, a refreshing yogurt drink, alongside.
  • Italian: Order pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs instead of sausage. Avoid cheese-laden lasagna, deep fried eggplant parmigiana and deep dish pizza with the works. Try "white" pizza with olive oil and veggies instead of sausage, pepperoni and extra cheese. Order antipasto to share instead of a basket of garlic bread to begin the meal, and end with spumoni instead of cannelloni.
  • Deli: Choose turkey or roast beef on rye, whole wheat or pumpernickel instead of mayo-laden tuna or chicken salad on onion or challah rolls, and have fresh fruit, slaw or a cup of chicken noodle or matzo ball soup instead of blintzes or potato salad. Avoid straw sandwiches (pastrami or corned beef with Thousand Island and Swiss cheese). Deli bagels are usually two to three times the size of a single serving, so order accordingly.

Here are some healthy choices at favorite restaurants:

  • Chili's: Spicy garlic and lime grilled shrimp, guiltless grilled salmon, lettuce wraps (hold the peanut sauce)
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery: Asian vegetables (side dish); Angus hamburger (without bun); skip the garlic fries
  • Paradise Bakery and Café: Chicken caesar salad; ask for a light toss of dressing; fresh fruit salad
  • Wendy's: Plain baked potato, small chili

Editor's Note: Do you have a tip for making healthy choices at specific restaurants or in general? Post them below.

Indian Chicken Tikka Is A Healthy Choice

About The Author: Claire Bush is a freelance writer and author of "Dining in Arizona - 101 Great Places to Eat." Reach her at


April 29, 20080 found this helpful

This is all fine and dandy but what about a lo-carb diet?

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