20 Tips To Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Eating healthy and dining out may be two unrelated concepts in your world. But with the help of Debra L. Gordon and David L Katz, M.D., authors of “Stealth Health,” these two concepts can work together in harmony. Readers Digest has assembled 20 tips to eating smart when dining out which are excerpts from the aforementioned book. See some of our favorite tips, inside…

The Reader’s Digest article says,

1. Above all else, be assertive. Dining out is no time to be a meek consumer, notes Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and coauthor of the book Restaurant Confidential. “You need to be an assertive consumer by asking for changes on the menu,” he says. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with french fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a smaller portion of the meat and a larger portion of the salad; for salad instead of coleslaw; baked potato instead of fried. “Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it,” says Dr. Jacobson. “Very often, the restaurant will cooperate.” Below, you’ll find more specific requests.

2. Ask your waiter to “triple the vegetables, please.” Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really like garnish — a carrot and a forkful of squash. When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra. “I’ve never been charged,” says dietitian Jeff Novick, R.D., director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida. “And I’ve never been disappointed. I get full, not fat.”

11. Do the fork dip. The best way to combine salad dressing with salad? Get your dressing on the side, in a small bowl. Dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.

13. Read between the lines. Any menu description that uses the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, or stuffed is likely loaded with hidden fats — much of it saturated or even trans fats. Other “beware of” words include: buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, Thermidor, Newburg, Parmesan, cheese sauce, scalloped, and au lait, à la mode, or au fromage (with milk, ice cream, or cheese).

16. Top a baked potato with veggies from the salad bar. Or ask if they have salsa — the ultimate potato topper, both in terms of flavor and health. Just avoid the butter and sour cream.

Check out the Reader’s Digest article for the full list.

If the eating healthy thing is just not enough fun for you, just pretend this list called “20 Ways To Annoy Your Waiter,” the list will work just as well for both.

Eat Smart When Dining Out: 20 Tips.
[Reader’s Digest] (Thanks to Mike!)
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. afrix says:

    Not a great idea–most midrange restaurants, and chains, are not equipped for such customization. All you’ll do is annoy the kitchen.

    And I don’t want to eat food prepared by annoyed people…

  2. Skankingmike says:

    How not to enjoy your night out of eating..

    Eating healthy is fine, but unless you eat out every single night of the week; the once in a while indulge is fine. In fact I’d say with this economy when you do get a chance to eat out (that’s not at a fast food place) go for the gusto.

  3. Skankingmike says:

    @afrix: yea i was thinking this person must love eating spit :)

  4. ratnerstar says:

    I’m all about eating healthy and everything, but salsa is not and never will be tastier than butter and sour cream on a baked potato.

  5. chucklebuck says:

    The hardest thing when eating out is sodium. My wife is on blood pressure meds and a prescribed low sodium diet. Most chain places at the very least use enough pre-packaged stuff that they can’t control the salt content to the degree she needs. We have one fairly upscale place we like to go, and since they cook everything fresh, she’s able to eat there with no issues, and the chef actually guides her toward things that won’t be quite as flavor compromised with less salt. But it’s upscale, so it’s not the kind of place you go once a week unless you’re more loaded than we are. So we largely eat at home, where I can control salt myself for her, and we’ll pretty much have to keep to that plan until more restaurants offer more low sodium options.

  6. wgrune says:

    Number one sounds like it will just piss everybody in the kitchen off, not to mention confuse your poor server.

    @afrix: Good call on the midrange restaurants. I think at places like Fridays and Applebees everything comes in a steamer bag and making all those substitutions would be a nightmare.

  7. perruptor says:

    What afrix and Skankingmike said. The number one rule for healthy restaurant dining is “Don’t piss off the staff.” This guy’s first order of business seems to be to violate that rule.

  8. timmus says:

    So: assertive, salad, salad, salad, avoid fat, box, double, salad, salad, salad, salad, salad, menu.

    I’d prefer less salad tips… frankly salad is not that exciting and if I’m faced with that I’ll often just skip the meal and have something healthy elsewhere.

  9. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Yeah I’ll put your “dressing” on the side

  10. Indecent says:

    @afrix:
    “Not a great idea–most midrange restaurants, and chains, are not equipped for such customization. All you’ll do is annoy the kitchen.”

    Not sure about that myself, as I worked at a Red Lobster for three years in college (and Red Lobster and Olive Garden are owned by the same company and run the same way) and we’d do nearly any damn substitution people asked for.
    You can have your meat nearly any way you like it – the exception being fish that can’t be grilled because it will fall apart.

    We even made the cheese biscuits without butter when requested. I’ve gotten the “triple veggies” request before (though RL will charge for it, as its a normal side there).

    There’s a reason, I guess, why places like Applebees rate so much lower in customer satisfaction.

  11. MikeB says:

    @perruptor (and afrix and Skankingmike): I don’t see how asking for customizations would piss off the staff. Now, being rude about it would but asking politely shouldn’t.

  12. AMetamorphosis says:

    How arrogant to go in and to assume you can change everything that is offered.

    Unless you have a food allergy there is no reason to do this. ( and even then, you should explain why you need something left out of your dish. )

    Order whats offered or find a place that suits your diet.

  13. MikeB says:

    @AMetamorphosis: So, you never ask for a change to an ordered item? Never add anything? Maybe light on the mayo/sauce/etc? Or ask for some more barbecue sauce?

  14. Antediluvian says:

    @AMetamorphosis: (arrogant to ask for changes)

    There is absolutely NO REASON why I should have to justify why I want something left out of my meal. These are REQUESTS. If the kitchen and staff can accomodate them, great! If they can’t, the staff should tell the customer politely and ask what they’d like to do. No big deal.

    Food allergy, food dislike, or dietary concern (keeping Kosher, low carbs, whatever: shouldn’t matter to the staff. If the customer asked for it, can you do it? Yes — great. No — okay.

    I think number 1 should have been “be nice” rather than “be assertive.”

  15. Antediluvian says:

    @AMetamorphosis:
    Also, nothing here said they won’t charge you appropriately for changes.

    I asked for an omlet special without the ham; menu said no changes & server confirmed that. I didn’t push it, I said fine, build me one just like the special, but without the ham. No big deal.

  16. Youthier says:

    @Antediluvian: I don’t think it’s arrogant but I do agree it makes you a target for bad service/spit. Anything out of the ordinary is going to annoy the staff b/c in my experience, the people who make substitions are the hardest to please and the ones that typically send food back.

    So asking for substitutes gets you stereotyped as difficult. And I know, this is when people say, “Then don’t work in food service!” but it is what it is.

    I would agree that if it is for a life or death reason (allergy or dietary restrictions) you should let the waitstaff know that in a polite manner.

  17. Etoiles says:

    @Antediluvian: You nailed my sentiments exactly.

    It’s not a crime to ask. (Though “assume,” as the tips state, really is a bit much.) A smile and a, “Would it be possible to…” goes a long, long way in most restaurants. And of course, it can become a forward-perpetuating cycle of goodwill and accommodation, since if a server works hard to meet any of my requests, or makes a best-effort even if ultimately foiled by the kitchen, I naturally tip high.

    It is true that an Applebee’s or a Friday’s pretty much can’t do anything for you. That’s why my (scant) dining-out budget goes to restaurants that can. Money talks, etc.

  18. Antediluvian says:

    Another option: If they can’t substitute something, ask them to leave it off the plate. Me, I don’t like pickles, but I don’t care if they touch my food, I’m just not gonna eat ‘em. So I ask the staff to skip the pickle — saves food and money (for the restaurant), and I’m not upset that I didn’t get enough value for my money — they OFFERED the pickle, I CHOSE not to accept it (in advance).

    Also, YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT EVERYTHING that’s on your plate. Who knew???

  19. kmt06002 says:

    I work at a small semi-upscale place. We’ll do anything for you as long as we have the ingredients in-house at the moment. But, changing portions is a good way to get charged.

    Meat and fish is portioned out before the night begins, and if you order a little less, there’s little we can do with the left-over piece. But, we will charge you for the extra veggies.

    And as a waiter, I say save the overdrawn explanation unless it is a food allergy. I have other tables to wait on and am not interested in your diet plan. But if you’re gonna die if you eat garlic, let me know.

  20. Antediluvian says:

    @EtoilePB: Oh, excellent point: if your server and the kitchen can accomodate your requests and they’re anything beyond “extra lemon,” please increase your tip. I always do.

  21. Anita Ham Sandwich says:

    @afrix: What he said.

    Now I can see if you’re a regular someplace, and a good tipper, the server and kitchen probably wouldn’t mind accommodating you. But if it’s a one-off at a chain restaurant, why not just look at their menu online (and most have nutritional info up, too) and decide ahead of time if there’s something that works with your diet.

  22. kmt06002 says:

    And the biggest pet peeve: Leaving out a major flavor component of the dish and then complaining that it is bland.

    Well, yes… yes it is.

  23. kaptainkk says:

    Why would anyone go into a restaurant and be “assertive” when ordering? Unless you are allergic to a certain food just eat it the way it’s supposed to be made, otherwise order something else. Maybe like mac n cheese! I hate picky eaters. Those that attempt to change the entire menu by substituting this for that, more of this, less of that are just going to piss off the wait staff/cook.

  24. Antediluvian says:

    @kmt06002: I think it’s incumbent on all of us who dine out to realize that if we deviate from the menu, the restaurant may charge us for that. Seems fair to me, as long as they’re not being jerks about it and the prices are reasonable (like a little extra for a salad instead of fries).

  25. Skankingmike says:

    assertive vs. polite maybe, but he said assertive. After working in the service industry assertive usually means being a dick.

    I still feel that just eat what you want when you’re out and screw salad’s is a better idea. I think your health has more to do with being happy than it does with what crap you shovel into it.

  26. trioxinaddict says:

    @chucklebuck: I have the same problem when I try to go out with my grandparents. Both have high blood pressure and we can’t go anywhere unless they’re kinda upscale or healthy to begin with.

    Maybe you and your wife should look at going to vegan and vegetarian restaurants? Those offer a lot of different menu choices and they usually make everything fresh, so substitutions aren’t a problem. They aren’t too expensive either depending on where you live.

  27. picardia says:

    Why is it arrogant to go to a restaurant and expect to get food you want? This whole “eat whatever they give you” mentality is weird to me. OTOH, I avoid chain restaurants like the plague — both neighborhood establishments and nice restaurants are more than willing to work with customers. Maybe Slappy McFriedkin’s just defrosts the ready-shipped entrees, but anywhere else, it’s not unreasonable to ask for a couple of adjustments, and if you do so nicely, the staff is unlikely to care.

  28. Antediluvian says:

    @kaptainkk: (Shut up and eat it!)

    As I said before, I think it should have said be NICE and ask if your changes can be made. Or perhaps you’d prefer it phrased like this: don’t be a jerk.

    If asking for more of this and less of that pisses off the wait staff and the cooks, they’re in the wrong line of work. Hell, even McDonald’s food is all made to order these days (granted, not always properly or well), and so is every Starbucks coffee purchase.

  29. evslin says:

    If the restaurant can’t handle the substitutions, then put “NO SUBSTITUTIONS” in the menu or pipe down and deal with it imo.

  30. T16skyhopp says:

    “But if you’re gonna die if you eat garlic, let me know.”

    haha sounds like my girlfriend. Poor thing cant eat italian.

  31. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    @kmt06002: I agree totally with you. I worked p/t at Uno’s last year for some extra cash, and it drove me CRAZY when people would ask for an item to be bare bones, then complain to the manager that the food isn’t edible. Then they’d tip the server less. Complete crock if you ask me.

  32. temporaryerror says:

    Re: #1- Very often the restaurant will cooperate (while doing horrible, spiteful things to your food…)

  33. Antediluvian says:

    @Legal_Eagle_In_Training: And that behavior in a customer goes against the “be nice and don’t be a jerk” philosophy.

  34. sean98125 says:

    I just order stuff on the menu that looks good to me and that I want to eat. If there is something on the plate I don’t like then I don’t eat it. But then I grew up in a house where I was told that I could make myself a sandwich if I didn’t like what the family was eating.

  35. floraposte says:

    Agreed. It’s a place that serves cooked food for money. It’s not insulting or inappropriate to ask for a particular configuration of cooked food in exchange for your payment. If they won’t do it, then you can head to someplace more accommodating if you wish. I also agree entirely that “Be assertive” is a misleading instruction, and that the key is to ask nicely and tip well for such customization.

    Though I think some of this does sound like trying to turn Denny’s into spa food when perhaps one might be better served by choosing a different restaurant in the first place, or even by cooking at home.

  36. overbysara says:

    doesn’t this advice fly in the face of the article yesterday that said, “Stop Kidding Yourself That Fast Food Restaurants Have Vegetarian Options.”

  37. Skiffer says:

    This is a gold mine for people like myself who travel most of the time for work – I’ll go months on the road without an actual home-cooked meal.

  38. kaptainkk says:

    @Antediluvian: I’ll take a Big Mac please, no lettuce but could I get an extra dab of the special sauce. Oh yeah extra onions too and could you chop up the pickle slices up rather than put the slices on. I have a diet condition where I can’t really digest pickles too well. I’m sorry but is there any way you could add an extra patty and make it a triple but be sure to add another middle bun, I can pay extra. See how that works out for you. I’m sure your Big Mac will be “special” delicious!! Me – I’ll take a Big Mac, end of story!

  39. timmus says:

    Also, YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT EVERYTHING that’s on your plate. Who knew???

    That may be true, but it’s interesting how ingrained this is with many of us, having had parents or grandparents that grew up during the Great Depression. Sure, there’s food on the plate that we don’t like, but the stuff that we do, it’s almost guaranteed that many of us are going to polish it off. I think it goes back to that learned behavior.

  40. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    I don’t get why #6 isn’t #1. Honestly, eat whatever you want, just do it in moderation. Most restaurants give you a serving size that can easily feed 2-3 people. Eat slowly, and when you starting to feel full, stop.

    I’ve never had a waiter kick me in the face when asking for a to-go box.

  41. Antediluvian says:

    @kaptainkk: Whatever dude, McD’s DOES assemble all its burgers to order. They have for years. But you seem to have missed the “don’t be a jerk” part of the behavior guide. Good luck w/ that.

  42. kaptainkk says:

    @Antediluvian: It was not my intention to offend. Sorry about that. It just irks me when I see people order food and switch up the whole damn entree. Is is that hard for them to find something that works with their taste?

  43. Eilonwynn says:

    Actually, the not eating everything on my plate is possibly the hardest for me to deal with on a daily basis – I’d been forced to do exactly this for an early part of my childhood, and when dining out with my grandmother, she gets very pissy if I don’t eat absolutely everything. Now all I do is politely ask for a take-away, informing them that as good as the food is now, it’s AMAZING at three am. (Olive Garden’s Pasta e fagioli soup as a prime example, with good fresh bread, is a meal in itself). The waiters don’t care, and I get 3 or 4 small meals instead of one huge one.

  44. Eilonwynn says:

    Another thing is – It’s not like customers are being forced to eat “whatever the restaurant gives them” – If you like your chicken parmesan with fettucine alfredo on the side, instead of spaghetti, find a damn restaurant that does that – it’s not difficult.

    Most of the fine dining chefs I’ve talked to have worked REALLY hard to create a menu, and changing everything in one of their dishes will piss them off far, far more than at any mid-level chain.

  45. madanthony says:

    My thought – eat what you want, and spend an extra hour on the elepitical.

    I don’t eat out all that often, so when I do I usually splurge. I guess if you have to eat out a lot – if you travel for work or something – it makes sense to follow these tips, but I’d rather eat healthy most of the time when I’m home or brown bag my lunch – when it’s easy to control what I eat – and treat myself on the rare occasions I go out to eat.

  46. Antediluvian says:

    @kaptainkk: I agree it’s annoying for customers to ask for stupid substitutions, and I also think the “don’t be a jerk” policy applies towards fellow patrons queuing up at the fast-food place.

    I really think this whole discussion applies to reasonable common-sense changes and not over-the-top ones.

    Also, don’t go to a fried seafood place and ask for your fish grilled.

  47. windycity says:

    I think I first saw #11 printed in Cosmo forever ago. Been asking for my salad dressing on the side ever since. Works quite well and I’ve found that even if I forget to ask for the dressing on the side, most restaurants do it that way now anyway.

  48. @dry-roasted-peanuts: “I’ve never had a waiter kick me in the face when asking for a to-go box. “

    Apparently you’ve never been to Chuck Norris’s restaurant.

    (But agree — I order what looks tasty with an eye towards talking 1/2 to 2/3 of it home and making 2 or 3 more meals out of it. Cold steak for breakfast is one of my favorite things on the PLANET!)

  49. Jon Mason says:

    One or two simple substitutions = fine

    (ie – no sauce, baked potato instead of fries) Is no problem, in fact most chain restaurants I go to will ask you what side you want even when a particular one is listed as coming with the dish.

    A lot of changes/substitutions = not fine OR tip large – instead of fried grouper I want it grilled and glazed in an orange sauce and steam the vegetables with no salt.

  50. The absolute most I might do is ask for baked/mashed potatoes instead of fries (usually at Friday’s) and the omission of items from my sandwich (usually lettuce). Never seem to have a problem with it.

  51. Hongfiately says:

    Hat tip on #9 and #10 to Real Men of Genius’ Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor, “A culinary invention that baffles the human mind, a twelve thousand calorie salad.”

    My advice on this topic is to not even try to eat healthy if — if — you don’t eat out all the time. If you generally eat healthy throughout the week and you get regular exercise, eating an indulgent meal out once a week isn’t going to hurt you (insert caveats about preexisting health conditions, special diet needs, allergies, etc.).

    If your schedule means you have to eat out regularly, then definitely try to make healthier choices where you can. However, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over an occasional meal out or deny yourself a corn dog and funnel cake at the state fair, as long as you get right back to your regular healthy routine the next day.

  52. kimsama says:

    @AMetamorphosis: You’re right! It’s so arrogant. I mean these restaurants are doing us a favor, feeding us for free, and…

    …wait, we pay restaurants to make us food, don’t we? So maybe it’s in their interests to make sure that customers get what they want. I would not call asking for changes “arrogant” — I would call it knowing what you want. If the restaurant is unwilling or unable to comply, a savvy customer will just take their business elsewhere. In fact, I am sure that the restaurants would prefer that customers ask for special requests rather than spend their money elsewhere, so it’s really in the best interests of both parties.

  53. Hongfiately says:

    @edicius: Most places have no problem with the baked potato option. When I get a baked potato, they usually ask if you want it loaded or not. I order all of the fixins on the side and then use the fork method. That way I get to enjoy the taste of the butter and sour cream without being utterly bombed by it.

    Hmm… if only OEM computers had that option. “I’d like all of the extra software on the side.”

  54. nick_r says:

    17. Eat at better restaurants. They serve healthier, fresher food with portion sizes that are meant for normal human beings.

  55. I used to wait tables, and I didn’t mind all this customization if you are nice. But most folks are assholes when they are asking for special treatment.

  56. rbaldwin says:

    We live in America. If a restuarant can’t customize an order, take YOUR money to one that will.

  57. joellevand says:

    @timmus: I blame half of my weight on the “Clean Plate Club” my parents forced upon me, with a heap of guilt in the “There are starving kids in China/Africa/South America” crap.

    The other half of the weight, of course, is my own damn fault because I’m an adult now. But damn if I don’t feel guilt even leaving a bite on my plate even 10 years after I started cooking for myself.

  58. freepistol says:

    i order a hamburger, but ask if they can put grilled chicken on it instead of a hamburger pattie. usually they just ask if im ok with paying the same price and i say yes.

    servers dont usually realize chicken costs more than beef, and i dont usualy divulge that little tidbit, but i dont care to pay extra if i have to since i cant eat red meat. and eating just the chicken sandwiches most places offer sucks, its just lettuce tomato and mayo. bleh.

  59. Hairyback says:

    These are the clowns who want to quiz the waiter down about every morsel, ruining the dining experience for everyone else at the table. Do us all a favor, you sniffy, self-important clowns: stay the fuck home.

  60. lamorevincera says:

    Former waitress here.

    I never minded substitutions and was happy to make them – as long as the person was nice about it.

    If you are demanding, rude, nasty, then don’t expect me to bust my ass for you. I will do exactly what you ask and no more.

    And, for the love of Pete, don’t expect your server to know every bit of nutritional info. They just don’t give us that, and I can’t quote the exact amount of calories in something to you.

    I also, before getting out of that job, had decided that the next blonde teenage girl who asked me for something “low fat, low calorie, and low carb” in a MEXICAN RESTAURANT was getting a glass of water plopped in front of her.

  61. Brazell says:

    “sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, Thermidor, Newburg, Parmesan, cheese sauce, scalloped, and au lait, à la mode, or au fromage”

    Drool. Those are my favorite words to read on a menu :(

  62. Jetgirly says:

    Almost every substitution I want in a restaurant involves leaving out the meat. I still expect to pay the quoted price, although it’s a nice surprise when I get a bill with a lower price on it. Once, in Mexico, the two girls I was with were dying to go to Chilis. I had never been to Chilis in Canada, and the thought of going to one in Mexico seemed rather ridiculous. However, I was in the minority so we went. And they didn’t have a single vegetarian thing on the menu. Nada. I asked the waitress if I could have some sort of vegetarian fajita thing- all of the parts of the fajitas (rice, beans, sauteed vegetables, salsa, guacamole, tortillas) except the meat. She was very confused but checked with the kitchen, who okayed it. When I got the bill, I found I’d been charged less than half the posted price! Needless to say, the money I saved went straight to her tip.

    PS – Sometimes I dip my fork in the salad dressing not to cut calories, but rather to ensure that there is enough dressing for my entire salad. I find a lot of places give you the same amount of dressing for a side salad as a dinner-sized salad. Hmmpfh.

  63. AdvocatesDevil says:

    Wow, there are a lot of food service people here who hate working in food service. Maybe should have thought about that before you took the job, eh?

  64. econ2econ says:

    I just wish the mid-range restaurants would do more to make the healthy stuff taste good. Who wants the steamed veggies when they are sad and wilted? And what if you don’t like broccoli? Why is that the only choice for a non-starch side at every mid-range restaurant? Not everyone can be lucky enough to live in an area with a wide variety of cuisines for every budget. If you’re in many rural and suburban areas, all that’s around you is fast food and Crapplebees.

  65. nick_r says:

    @AdvocatesDevil: Yeah, I’m sure it was between “food service” and “Fortune 500 CEO” and they just chose poorly.

  66. TWSS says:

    Most of these are not going to work at chain restaurants that primarily use ingredients from Sysco and the like. Having worked at a couple of these places, I can tell you that you can’t order your “coconut shrimp” grilled instead of fried because the restaurant orders them in ginormous bags of frozen, pre-prepared portions that don’t even get thawed, simply dunked in a fryer. Asking for your teriyaki-glazed chicken without the sugary (more likely, corn syrupy) glaze won’t work, either: [sysco.com] I’ve gotten to the point now where I can recognize Sysco products before they even hit my table. It’s disappointing, but it’s the most cost-effective way to run a restaurant.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are places like this ([beastpdx.com]) that are too small to accommodate every dietary whim and stay in business. If you’ve got your panties in a wad about salad dressing, you probably should be avoiding restos with foie gras on the menu anyway.

  67. bbagdan says:

    Eat half of the food and take the other half home.

    Share meals.

    Avoid appetizers and desserts, other than non-cream soups.

    Just have soup and salad.

    Drink water, avoid blender drinks and soft drinks.

    Fill up on bread.

    Avoid anything cheese or bacon based.

  68. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    @lamorevincera: AMEN to that.

    @AdvocatesDevil: Take heed to what nick_r says. Think about it this way: would YOU wait on these customers unless you ABSOLUTELY needed the money? I took the waitressing job for 2-3 months on weekends to get some extra money. I soon realized that the extra money I was making wasn’t enough to convince me to put up with people’s crap. But I’m a better customer – and tipper – for the experience.

  69. Possinator says:

    I waited tables at Tumbleweed for years and trust me, if you order extra sides you will be charged for them. Customized orders take longer to prepare and may not turn out too great. It’s very annoying when you and the kitchen (especially the kitchen) bend over backwards to make an order super customized only to have a customer shrug their shoulders and tell you it’s “meh.”

    Being assertive just feels like he’s telling to be jerks. The restaurant sells what it sells and if you don’t like that then don’t eat there. We would work with people but we weren’t miracle workers. We would make all these customizations and that would increase the time of the item to be prepared, then the customer would be angry because the food is taking longer. Then there’s like I said earlier that the version the customer created may not be the best tasting.

  70. danavinson says:

    I was worried about pissing off waiters at restaurants when I embarked on my diet. People are not sympathetic to those trying to lose weight, for a myriad of reasons. That’s why my diet counselor told me to tell waiters I was diabetic.

    When I protested that I would be lying, she looked me square in the eye and said, “Not really. If you keep eating the way you are, you will be in five years.”

    You’d be surprised at how accomodating people will be when they think you’re making special requests because of a disease, as opposed to a diet. Plus, a lot has to do with how you ask. If you’re polite and request instead of insist, most waiters will be happy to do what they can.

    Plus, many of the commenters have said that indulging once and awhile won’t hurt anyone. This just isn’t true. Anyone who’s gone hardcore on a low-calorie diet knows that just one meal out can snowball into a week or more of bad eating. That’s what happens when food is an addiction. You can’t stop. You can try to avoid restaurants all you want, but when it comes down to it there are going to be birthday parties and friends who insist on dining out, so it’s something you’ve got to be prepared to face head on.

  71. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    @kaptainkk: Well yeah, if you’re going to be just plain retarded like that. But somehow, my usual Carl’s Jr. order, “Jalapeno Chicken sandwich combo, please, oh, and can I get a side salad instead of fries?” comes spit-free. It’s usually the same at casual dining restaurants (I usually don’t go any fancier than that).

    If you can make one or two requests and get what you want, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re asking for the whole dish to be made differently, you should really think about ordering something else.

  72. alejo699 says:

    It’s an interesting debate … since you’re paying for your meal you have a right to get what you want, true. But at the same time, you’re going to a restaurant because you want to find out what the chef can do, so messing around with the menu he/she has built makes going to that restaurant sort of pointless. I wouldn’t say special ordering is arrogant, you should eat what makes you happy, but when I go to a restaurant I want to eat the dishes as the chef has envisioned them.
    (Of course I’m not talking about chains like TGI-Crapplemax here. As pointed out, they’re just nuking stuff from the freezer, and if I wanted pepper jack cheese on everything I’d just use my own microwave.)

  73. cerbie says:

    3. If fat/calorie content are what worry you, should not be eating out. I an only think of a single restaurant within 30 miles that does not have a menu full of calorie dense foods…it’s the vegetarian Indian fast food place, and they have such foods, just not only those.

    4. How much does the nutritional info have to do with the food being good? Fat is not bad, but typical chain crap is, even with less fat. Smaller portions are good, though.

    5. Again, why would you think they are going to be low-calorie? It’s generally not a restaurant thing.

    6. Never thought of that. I’ll have to try it. There are many restaurants where I can never eat a full portion, but all the good dishes are big portions only.

    7. Yeah, but that goes against cheapness per mass of food, since you get so much less food with the appetizers. I’m sure it is better for you, though.

    8. IIRC, the same is true for soup. Too bad most restaurants don’t believe in real lettuce (with color) or dressing (soy and cottonseed oils need not apply—olive and canola are the only ones that taste good) :-|.

    9. Why shouldn’t salads be fatty? Seriously, what is wrong with fat?

    10. I love me some cheese in salad (especially fetta), but yeah…the big loud room chains (Cheddar’s, TGIF’s, Applebees, etc.) love that stuff. More calories, man (more accurately, more foods that feel like traditional comfort foods, but are in non-comfort food suits).

    11. (I need an evil eye emoticon) sacrilege. Every bit of every bite should be lightly coated. MMMmmmmmm…anyway, is eating one or two teaspoons less dressing going to change anything? I would think parking three spots farther away than otherwise would be enough to make up for that.

    12. How about check the menu, and avoid such big chains, too? Especially if you want to follow the lower items in the list involving customizing dishes, a good local place will suit you better. For all the things I may often be found complaining about where I live, local restaurants that have started since the area got real broadband have been embracing the web quite well.

    Also, if you like a restaurant, and they have plain paper menus, take one. Then, you can have a stash to look through.

    13. Hidden?! If you slice into it, it won’t look too hidden, unless you are in denial.

    15. I’m too cheap to order drinks when I can, but yeah, sounds good. If they’ll make simpler traditional cocktails (old fashions, FI), all the better.

    16. It’s probably better for you, but I have a lot of Irish in me. It’s just wrong :). Also watch out for the nasty stuff that they give you when you ask for butter.

    17. I’ve been doing this one for a long time, but not for health (what about toxins all in the fish meat, hmm?)…at just about any chain, grilled, broiled, or baked fish will generally taste better than most other dead animal stuff on the menu (assuming you’re not into tasting more of a sauce/breading/filling than the meat).

    19. Maybe, but it’s kind of N/A. If I feel up to cooking, I won’t eat out. I don’t get dressed up to eat out, because I don’t get anymore dressed up than my work clothes.

    This very much reads like an article saying, “you don’t think about what you eat, do you?” Sadly, that’s probably true.

    @chucklebuck: hey, I was gonna bring that up! I’m just averse to lots of salt, since I have working taste buds. Much as I have vitriol for overly strong scents (see that other post a bit newer than this one), many restaurants use too much salt. The chains have a good excuse, that they need to make up for ingredients that are average or worse. Most local ones aren’t that bad, except steakhouse type places.

    What’s with all the added sugar, too? More calories, less flavor.

    IMO, if you want to eat smart and healthy eating out, eat somewhere that will have healtheir menu items to begin with (Indian, Mexican, Greek, etc.). One side effect is that they will tend to be good at making them tasty, as well.

  74. The “fork dip” idea is awesome — I do it anyway, because I hate goopy salads, but I bet it makes a significant difference calorie-wise.

    Also love the “triple the veggies” idea. Definitely going to try that.

    Asking for customizations isn’t bad and won’t get your food spit on, *as long as you’re polite*. Also, the article makes it sound like you’ll ask for seven customizations at once, when in real life you’ll probably only need between one and three. Anyway, even crappy restaurants are usually okay custom making your food — they have to cook it for you anyway, so what does it matter if they grill it instead? — as long as, like I said, you’re polite about it.

  75. jimmydeweasel says:

    @ratnerstar: ummmmmmmmmmmmm butter

  76. From a portion control point of view, try getting two appetizers instead of an entree. Or cut your entree in half and ask for a doggie bag. Reasonable portion size PLUS an extra meal = bonus!

  77. SpaceCat85 says:

    When eating at a family restaurant chain, make sure you hold the bacon if you order a salad. Some places like Applebees love to put bacon in every salad they offer. And order a 1/2-sized salad at Applebees unless you plan on taking about 1/2 of it home for later, because their definition of “regular” is oversized to say the least.