Why you should not sacrifice your diet routine when dining in restaurants, make sure you only dine at the best heart healthy restaurants in your area.
What comes to your mind when your family or friends wants you to dine with them at a restaurant? If you’re strictly following a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, then your first concern would be to inquire whether the food they serve is healthy or not. It’s actually not advisable to skip or deviate from your diet routine as you may already know full well that even cheat days can become a sticky habit that will make you regret it for life. But you don’t have to bend over backwards just to spend some quality time with your family, friends or co-workers, because there are best heart healthy restaurants in the United States that you can have the best of both worlds.
The Busy Life in the City
Who doesn’t love dinner on the town? Eating out gives you the chance to connect and socialize with your friends and even meet new people who could play a significant part in your life. City life is a busy lifestyle – one that could bring out the worst in you – and if you’re not cut out for it, then it would be best to find a quiet little spot in the suburban areas where you’ll have peace of mind most of the time. Lucky for you if you’re already living this dream (yes, a simple life nowadays is actually a dream). Your normal circumstances living in the city could be working late, attending after-school activities, workout in the gym to stay “healthy” (but does it really make you healthy?), catching up with friends, or the more sensitive option – catching up with your wife or husband. Sometimes you’re literally burned out to even cook dinner for the family at home.
Do some Background Research on Best Heart Healthy Restaurants in your Area
However, even though we’ve told you that you can find at least one local of the best heart healthy restaurants in your area, you’d actually still need to do your homework to find it and plan what foods you want to order once you get there. Use these tips to stay on your healthy eating track even when you eat out.
Let us break it down for you with our top ten tips:
- Google it – You can easily access information about restaurants and their menus via a simple Google search, even on your mobile device. Find out what kinds of food they serve and pick the most nutritious ones to order when you get there.
- Look for clues – Keep your eyes peeled for keywords that designate some food as “healthy” and only stick to those in order to not deviate from your diet routine. Words like light, fresh, fit, vegetarian, skinny, and so on are the ones to look for.
- Order food that have the AHA seal – Try to spot the Heart-Check mark on the menu. Some restaurants have this seal to indicate that the food the restaurant serve adhere to the nutrition standards of the American Heart Association.
- It’s like elementary, don’t be afraid to ask questions – It’s understandable that you’d be reluctant to be that annoying person waltzing into the restaurant like you own the place, but it’s perfectly fine to ask the chef about ingredients, preparation methods, or substitutions.
- Just say no – Pass up any offers about freebies and upsells. We of all people understand how cocktails and appetizers can be tempting, but just keep in mind that these things can add more fat, sodium, sugar and calories than what you need – not to mention expenditures too. And you can also just reject their in-the-house bread and butter or chips and salsa offer.
- Make your meals colorful – Some of the best heart healthy restaurants in America encourage people to eat colorful food ranging from vegetables, fruits and herbs. Be sure to ask the waiter/waitress about this and add them as sides or substitute them for some of the ingredients in your food that you know aren’t necessary to your diet.
- Be creative and solve the problem – When you absolutely cannot find a healthy option in the restaurant’s menu, then take the initiative to craft a meal from what’s available in their menu and come up with a healthy dish! Combine vegetables that are served as side dishes and then ask if they can prepare your food to order. Of course, you can’t do this in the drive-thru window; however, in regular restaurants you can arrange something special with the chef.
- Watch out for the oil and fats – Talk to the chef and ask if they’re using tropical vegetable oils or extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) when preparing their dishes. Inquire about butter, solid fats and cooking oils, tell the chef that you prefer EVOO on your food, instead. Go for monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats as these are good for your health, avoid the bad fats.
- Regulate your side dishes – Ask the server to prepare the butter, cheese, toppings, salad dressings, sauces and gravies as a side dish, so you can limit the amount of their use. When you control how much unnecessary food that you consume, then that puts you in the driver’s seat of the car!
- Reduce the portions as needed – If the portions are large, share an entrée or set aside half to take home before you start eating/ When you’re not dining at one of the best heart healthy restaurants in your city or town, chances are the portions they’ll serve is good for 2-3 people, and that’s too much for you. Share the food with friends or set aside half to take home. Take only a few bites out of appetizers, fries and desserts. These things add unwanted calories to your body.
Follow these swapping tips when dining at a restaurant:
Foods to Reject
- bacon, sausage & fatty, salty meats
- white bread, rice and pasta
- cream-based or cheese soups
- deep-fried, pan-fried, extra crispy, creamed, stuffed
- French fries
- refried beans
- sour cream, queso
- salty sauces like soy, teriyaki, cocktail, au jus
- all-you-can-eat, supersize, buffet
- traditional desserts, cookies, ice cream
- soda, sweet tea, sugary cocktails
Foods to Consume
- skinless chicken, fish, lean meat
- whole-grain bread, rice and pasta
- broth-based soup with lots of veggies
- grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, poached
- baked potato or side salad
- pintos or black beans
- guacamole, pico de gallo
- light sauces flavored with herbs, spices, vinegar, wine
- a la carte, light menu, salad bar
- fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts
- water, 100% juice, diet soda, seltzer, spritzers
Best Heart Healthy Restaurants that Serve Nutritious Food
It is true that once upon a time fast food restaurants offer cheap, low-nutrition and just basically unhealthy food. All this has changed now, especially after the fast food giant, McDonalds was exposed for putting stuff that causes cancer and other diseases in their food. In order to combat the negativity some of these fast food chains have started to reconfigure their menus and offer healthy foods to their patrons.
Below are 5 of the best heart healthy restaurants in the United States:
Chipotle Mexican Grill is a fast food chain that specializes in foods such as tacos and burritos. What makes Chipotle’s food so nutritious is the fact that they strictly follow a healthy diet when preparing their meals by using organic, farm-fresh ingredients, with meats from naturally raised animals. They offer a wide range of healthy food options including burritos, tacos, and salads, with a variety of meats, veggies, rice, beans, and guacamole.
They have various branches all over the world in countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK.
Chick-fil-A is a fast-food restaurant founded in the United States that primarily serves chicken sandwiches. Their contribution to keeping Americans healthy is when they started to offer a menu that’s 100% trans-fat free. They continue to put in more effort in making their dishes more nutritious than just being delicious. One thing I find interesting is that they’ve improved their kids’ menu by offering fruit cup sides and milk to drink. If you want to eat healthy food in their restaurant, then order the following:
- grilled chicken nuggets
- chicken salads
- grilled market salad
- multi-grain breakfast oatmeal
Locations: throughout the United States
Wendy’s ranks at the top 3 biggest fast-food chain that specializes in hamburgers with McDonald’s at the top 1 and Burger King on second place. Wendy’s could also be considered as one of the best heart healthy restaurants in the USA with some of its food options. While Wendy’s focuses more on hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and French fries, they do have a few healthy foods that you can order. Chicken salads and chicken wraps are among them. Wendy’s has branches in 30 countries worldwide where most are located in North and South America, Asia, and the Caribbean.
4. Au Bon Pain
It’s true that most of the pastries of Au Bon Pain consist of carbohydrates and sugars which is not healthy; however, you can order their sandwiches, salads, soups, breakfast options and other nutritious dishes that are good for your body. Their other healthy selection includes fresh grapes, watermelon, fruit cups, and hard-boiled eggs which will definitely satisfy you. Au Bon Pain has branches across 25 states in America so that they’re relatively easy to find.
5. Avalon Pockets
If you’re looking for the best Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisines, then visit downtown Orlando City, Florida in a place called Avalon Park and look for Avalon Pockets restaurant. With all the previous blog posts on this site that we’ve written, I think I don’t have to tell you how nutritious the Mediterranean diet is. And did I forget to mention that we serve the most delicious dishes too?! Our top picks from our menu include stuffed grape leaves, vegetarian Rice, lemon, onion, mint, tomatoes and Mediterranean spices wrapped in grape leaves, hummus and the famous platters.
With all these super healthy meals we’ve just mentioned, Avalon Pockets is easily one of the best heart healthy restaurants in America. Unfortunately, we only have one location at the moment which is in Orlando, Florida but we’re planning on expanding the business soon.