Reader’s Request: Healthy Restaurant Eats

Hi friends! How’s your morning going? It’s Friday!!!!! I’m thinking that makes it a good day already 😉

So this post has been a long time coming –so many requests for this one- but I want to preface it by saying that sometimes going out to eat is a special occasion, or a weekly treat. In that case, get whatever the heck you want and enjoy it.


Case in point: fondue 😀

This post is more intended for readers who have to travel or work on-the-go and have to do the restaurant thang often, but want to stick to their healthy eating goals.

Usually when I go out to eat, I’ll navigate a menu according to what I’m feeling. Sometimes I want fish (like salmon), other times I’ll want a salad a veggies. Usually there’s an option I can swap stuff out for, order 2 appetizers or a la carte. I’ll try to decide between a cocktail/wine, bread or dessert, unless the Pilot orders dessert and I steal a few bites 😉

Here are some of my favorite clean eats for some popular restaurants:


The trap: lots of cheese, casserole dishes of pasta served for one, but made for a family of four, sodium overload.

No-fail veggie option: minestrone soup, salad, bread (if desired) – Olive Garden has AMAZING soup and salad combo. I say no to the breadsticks, but before gluten started messing with me, I’d have one breadstick at the end of my soup to sop up the last little bit 🙂

Fish: Italian restaurants usually offer some type of light, grilled fish dish. Ask for it with a side of veggies instead of the pasta/potatoes and a salad.salmon

Pasta: Many restaurants are offering whole wheat pasta instead of white. Order your pasta with whole wheat noodles and ask for half packed up to-go, which can be tomorrow’s lunch.

Chicken/meat: Once at Olive Garden, I asked if there was any way they could make chicken and veggies with marinara. The server was more than happy to ask for me and presented me with a beautiful plate of veggies, chicken and marinara. It was fantastic. If there’s something you want and aren’t seeing, just ask politely. Usually I’ll start off by saying, “I’m sorry to bother you, but is there any way I might be able to get *this* or *this*?”, saying please and thank you with a smile usually does the trick. [And if they say sorry, no substitutions, or “we can’t do that”, that’s ok too, but it’s always worth asking politely for something you’d like]


The trap: fried, lots of sugary sauces and SODIUM.

No-fail veggie option: Egg drop soup or miso soup, house salad (with ginger dressing! yum) and veggie roll with brown rice [<—this is my standard sushi house order]


Fish: Sashimi is a great option if you’re at sushi, or a brown rice and veggie bowl with shrimp

Chicken: Chicken salad, no wonton crispies, dressing on the side or lettuce wraps

Tips for Pei Wei:

-I’ll always order the kid’s size. Why? All of the entrees are actually two, very calorie-dense portions and I haaaaaate to waste food (or have a trunk full of leftovers if we’re out and about). I’d prefer to just order the amount I’d like to eat.

-Add veggies. They will add veggies to pretty much any dish, just ask 🙂

-Steamed instead of fried. You can ask for your fish and veggies to be steamed instead of fried, NBD.

Tips for PF Chang’s:

pf changs

-The appetizers are usually more than enough for a meal. The lettuce wraps are AWESOME

-Buddha’s Feast is my go-to meal, with brown rice and steamed shrimp instead of tofu [or sometimes, I’ll get the tofu]

-If you get a salad, ask for dressing on the side, or it will most likely arrive swimming in dressing.


The trap: Cheesy, gooey, fried, carby (hi chips and salsa), spicy goodness. This is the food of my childhood 😀

No-fail veggie option: Veggie fajitas with corn tortillas. Nix the sour cream and cheese, but go after the guacamole and beans (just make sure the beans are vegetarian)

Fish: Shrimp fajitas, or a grilled shrimp salad + beans

Chicken: Most Mexican restaurants offer a chicken topopo or taco salad. I’ll get this and ask for it in a bowl instead of the taco shell, no cheese, and use salsa for the dressing.

Lighter: If you really want something, order it off the a la carte menu. Sometimes we’ll go to Mexican and I really want a tamale or enchilada. So I’ll order a side of beans with no cheese and one tamale or enchilada, instead of the whole combo plate.


Tips for Chipotle:

-I nix the rice and get extra lettuce instead. I’d rather get leafy green nutrients than feel totally stuffed from eating rice

-Faves: burrito bowl with lettuce instead of rice, or soft tacos. No cheese or sour cream, lots of salsa, and guacamole (calorie-dense, but it’s all good stuff)



The trap: fried food, crazy portions, lack of veggies.

No-fail veggie option: Baked sweet potato, beans and a salad. Plop the beans on the sweet potato and feast.

Fish: Grilled salmon or shrimp skewers with baked sweet potato, veggies and/or salad.


[I miss Longhorn!]

Chicken/Meat: Small steak, or chicken salad. Or meat, veggies and baked sweet potato/salad.

Places that make it easy:


-Pita Pit


-Sweet Tomatoes

-California Pizza Kitchen

How often do you go out to eat? We try to keep it to 1-2x week max over here. What’s your favorite restaurant meal?

For me, it’s the gluten-free pizza and salad combo from Renee’s Organic Oven. I could eat it every day 😉


Enjoy your Friday and I’ll see ya later today with a Fashion post!



Similar reader’s request: Fitnessista-fying meals

Something to watch: A closer look at what the Pilot’s job looks like: [It was filmed at our previous squadron in Valdosta – last night he said that one of the landing shots is him landing. Crazy! Awesome video]

Post Navigation:


  1. Jensine Crandall on September 9, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Wow, there are no words, I am totally in awe of what your husband does.

  2. Ali @ urbanfruitbat on September 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Such and awesome post, as per usual. I think the biggest pit falls with restaurant food is the sauces. You never know what they are sneaking in there! But you can never go wrong with ordering extra veggies, extra salad, and dressings and sauces on the side. You are right in your suggestion to go for it if it is a special night out though! We only live once right?

  3. Orla on September 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Umm…is it just me or was there something kind of HOT about that video?! 😀

  4. Emma Angelic on September 10, 2011 at 4:04 am

    We go out to eat a couple of times a week. It’s hard because we really love to eat out, but know it’s not really the best (financially, plus it’s hard to know how healthy a lot of things are sometimes!). That video is amazing!

  5. Hillary on September 10, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I found out last night that Cheesecake Factory has a new “Skinny” menu! My BF and I went for dinner, and I was so excited—tons of delicious entrees under 600 calories. I got the salmon and veggies : )

  6. Elise on September 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Thanks Pilot!

  7. Jena on September 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

    The Pilot is totally badass:)

    • Fitnessista on September 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm


  8. Sara on September 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Hi Gina!

    Loved this post, but I do have a caution. I worked in the restaurant industry for over 6 years, while in college and grad school, and while I think you offer good advice, I find it can come off as quite ignorant if the customer isn’t careful. I believe the customer is entitled to a meal that they’re going to enjoy, don’t get me wrong; however, I think customers need to be very conscious of the substitutions they’re asking for. While most restaurants are quite accommodating, it can be an absolute pain for a customer to request dishes that aren’t on the menu. Not only is it a pain for the server to seek out and relay special instructions to the chef on a busy night, it’s even more inconvenient for the chef to make something that he hadn’t had prepped.

    I think substitutions can be done in a very kind and non-bothersome manner, but ask yourself: would you go to a friends house for dinner and ask for something other than what they were serving? Or would you make the best of what you were offered? And, if the server/restaurant is gracious enough to honor your requests, please, PLEASE, make sure you take care of them when it comes to tipping.

    I agree that it’s tough to always make healthy choices when it comes to eating out, but I think you’ve offered some great solutions! And I think prefacing your requests with “I’m sorry to bother you…” is the right way to go- you’re acknowledging to the server that you know you’re asking them to do a little extra, and servers will generally take better care of you with that understanding.

  9. Niamh on September 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Love this post. Just wondering if you have any tips to eating in Indian restaurants? Thanks 🙂

  10. mi-an d. on September 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    omg i’m finally home and so happy to be sitting in my bed reading your blog! 🙂 my bf and i had the craziest airport madness yesterday in miami airport! first the pilots were late so we waited, then lighting struck, so runway was closed so we waited, then pilot says left engine isn’t working so we waited, then mechanics had to come and then we waited, finally flight was cancelled! wahhhht?? so we rushed to rebook our flights to la, spent the nite there, then sfo this morning. bahh! anyway, all is well now! thanks for posting this! i have to say thank you bc everytime i go out to eat, i always always get sides of veggies/salads now (thinking of what fitnessista would eat)! 🙂 however i do indulge in some in n out veggie burgers and fries sometimes though…i think it’s only here in cali. they have the best fries ever!

    • Fitnessista on September 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      we have in n out here, too 🙂
      their fries rock my world
      glad you made it home ok after all the craziness!

  11. hillary on September 10, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    great point about pei wei sizing. i usually slam down a whole bowl just because it is there and it is good! however, since going gluten-free i have been avoiding the place (although i love it) because i was worried that there might be wheat in the sauce on the teriyaki veggie -tofu bowl…do you have any info on their sauces and gluten??

  12. megan on September 10, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Some people hate the menus that give you the calorie counts – but I love it! The SALADS usually have the most calories! Makes you look at other options that can be satisfying or modifying what you order (no cheese, etc).

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.