eating healthy at restaurants

Summer is full of opportunities for natural movement and fresh local foods.

However, there are also plenty of social gatherings at restaurants of all types that don’t follow the healthy ways of summer.

Everyone enjoys eating out, and you shouldn’t have to give that up! Instead of choosing between staying home or ruining your diet, use these five simple tips below to achieve nutrition success every time you eat out!

  • Be picky: Most restaurants are more than willing to make adjustments to their recipes; provided, they have the ingredients to do so. Asking for grilled chicken instead of fried chicken, broiled fish instead of beer-battered, or condiments lite or on the side are all great ways to reduce the high fat content found in many menu options.
  • Ask Questions: French fries and tater tots are not the only side option available! Although often not listed, many places will offer fresh fruit or a small salad as an alternative side at no additional cost. In addition, asking questions about how the meal is cooked or if any meal is prepared solely “in-house” can give further insight into the nutritional content of the meal. Foods that are prepared “in-house” use limited processed ingredients which can reduce the sodium and added sugar content of your meal.
  • Understand Menu Terms: Menus can be confusing by using food preparation terms you may have never heard of before. In fact, certain terms may indicate being cooked in high-fat butter or deep fried in oil. Below is a list of common menu terms and their health implication:
    • Au gratin, scalloped, buttered, creamed and stuffed can all indicate foods prepared in cream and butter. These foods are often higher in fat and calories and frequent consumption can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
    • Steamed, roasted, broiled, grilled and poached all utilize a dry heat cooking method and typically are lower in fat. These are the menu terms to look for when trying to select an entrée preparation method.
    • Au jus, pickled, smoked, cured can all imply high sodium. Too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Drink Water: Studies have shown that drinking water throughout your meal helps fill you up and curb your appetite. People who drink water with their meals are less likely to overindulge in the main course. Next time you are at a restaurant, swap a high-sugar soft beverage for a glass of ice water. Ask your waiter for a slice of fresh lemon or lime to jazz up your water even more!
  • Look at the Menu Ahead: Some menus can be overwhelmingly large. When going to a new restaurant, look at the menu online ahead of time and decide what you are going to order. By planning ahead you will be more likely to choose a healthier meal, and less likely to impulse order that bacon cheeseburger because you ran out of time looking at the menu.

Eating out should be a fun experience but it doesn’t have to compromise your health!

The next time you are ordering out from a restaurant keep the tips above in the back of your mind. It is important to remember that an occasional cheeseburger or side of cheesy scalloped potatoes will not totally compromise your diet. The problem comes about when these foods become a part of your regular diet, and overtime can lead to serious health consequences.

Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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mind diet

Before you go considering what crazy diet to try this January, consider a new approach to wellness.

This diet, called the MIND diet, combines 2 tried and true styles of eating that are proven to improve heart health, reduce hypertension and even decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet will help you shed those New Year pounds, and also keep you heart and brain happy.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension), both of which are well-studied and proven to offer numerous health benefits.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It was developed by a nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris, at Rush University Medical Center through a study that was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Her goal was to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by promoting a diet consisting of brain-healthy foods.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating foods that are as natural as possible, while limiting unhealthy fats and red meat. The DASH diet aims to reduce hypertension by helping people eat foods that can lower their sodium intake and blood pressure. The MIND diet recommends eating 10 foods daily and avoiding five types of foods.

MIND dietThe healthy-food groups include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens and salads.
  • All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once a day. It is best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they have a lot of nutrients with a low number of calories.
  • Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week. Although the published research only includes strawberries, you should also consume other berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for their antioxidant benefits.
  • Nuts: Try to get five servings of nuts or more each week. The creators of the MIND diet don’t specify what kind of nuts to consume, but it is probably best to vary the type of nuts you eat to obtain a variety of nutrients.
  • Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
  • Whole grains: Aim for at least three servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread.
  • Fish: Eat fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beans: Include beans in at least four meals every week. This includes all beans, lentils and soybeans.
  • Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Note that fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.
  • Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the red wine compound resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The five foods to avoid are:

  • Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon (about 14 grams) daily. Instead, try using olive oil as your primary cooking fat, and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs.
  • Cheese: The MIND diet recommends limiting your cheese consumption to less than once per week.
  • Red meat: Aim for no more than three servings each week. This includes all beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats.
  • Fried food: The MIND diet highly discourages fried food, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants. Limit your consumption to less than once per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts you can think of. Ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, donuts, candy and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times a week.

A good New Years resolution would be to focus on adding or replacing one food per week and/or removing one of the harmful food groups. You can try to have all 10 foods down by the time mid-March hits, and by April you should be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle!


The researchers’ main goal in creating the MIND diet was to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it is estimated that about a half-million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies of the MIND diet have shown that the diet can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in those who meticulously adhere to the diet. Even if you can’t stick to it 100%, you can still see many benefits if you only follow it moderately. The longer you follow the MIND diet, the better protected you will become from developing Alzheimer’s.

In various studies, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have each been found to have health benefits in other areas as well. The DASH diet can help decrease blood sugar levels possibly due to a higher consumption of probiotics. The DASH diet may also help reduce blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks, and systolic blood pressure could be reduced eight to 14 points over time.

The Mediterranean diet can help dieters lose weight and lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. The Mediterranean-style diet is also associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

No matter your goals, the MIND can help you stay healthy long into the future, in all areas of health and wellness!