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You can ask... for more veggies.

You’ve heard about the benefits of eating your veggies – they help keep you at a healthy weight, and boost your well-being. Every bit of colour counts. And while you try to do a good job of adding some colour to your meals at home, it can be a challenge when you eat out.

Restaurants will offer healthier choices when customers start asking for better options. So veg out! Ask for extra veggies in anything you order.

  • Soups: Go for a lower sodium broth-based, veggie-packed soup. This will fill you up so you won’t eat as much of your meal. For example, minestrone, carrot or tomato soup. 
  • Salads: Be smart about salads. Choose leafy green salads and ask for the dressing on the side.
  • Burgers: Pile on the lettuce, tomatoes and other veggie toppings. Or look for a veggie burger made from Portabella mushrooms, eggplant, or beans. Pizza: Load up the veggie toppings. The possibilities are endless: mushrooms, peppers, spinach, artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant. If you like to dip, then ask for tomato sauce instead of a creamy dipping sauce.
  • Sandwiches, subs or wraps: Go for half the meat and double the veggies. Add more lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, avocado, baby spinach, shredded carrots, or grilled vegetables.

American style eatery

  • Enjoy the fresh taste of tender-crisp steamed vegetables.
  • Get baked! Ask for your potato baked instead of mashed or fried. Top it with salsa and a sprinkling of cheese.
  • Love fries? Order half fries, half green salad.

Mexican

  • Ask for extra peppers and onions with your fajitas.
  • Get extra salsa with your soft tacos or burritos.

Italian

  • Enjoy the garden-fresh taste of tomato-based sauce with vegetables when ordering pasta. Ask for extra vegetables in your pasta dishes.
  • Instead of a big plate of pasta, choose a menu item that includes a small portion of pasta on the side, such as chicken with grilled veggies and a side of pasta.
  • Instead of a rice or pasta side dish, double up on grilled vegetables with your entrée.
  • Ask for extra tomato topping on bruschetta, minus the cheese.
  • Enjoy minestrone soup, which is packed with vegetables and beans.

Greek

  • Enjoy a small Greek salad with your meal.
  • Go for sides such as sautéed green beans or roasted seasonal vegetables.
  • Try some yemista (baked vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs).

Middle Eastern

  • Get a burst of colour with tabouleh (parsley salad) or fatoush (salad with cucumber, tomato and peppers).
  • Ask for grilled vegetables with your meal.
  • Try authentic baba ghanoush (eggplant dip).

Chinese

  • Ask to replace some of the noodles or rice with extra veggies.
  • Try a delicious vegetable dish, such as eggplant, Chinese broccoli or bok choy.

Thai/Vietnamese

  • Order fresh spring rolls at your favourite Thai place. They’re usually bursting with veggies.
  • Dig into mango or papaya salad.
  • Order Vietnamese pho with extra vegetables.

Japanese

  • Enjoy a seaweed salad or cucumber salad to start off your meal instead of deep fried tempura.
  • Order vegetarian “sushi” rolls to get an extra shot of veggies.  

Indian

  • Order dishes with gobi (cauliflower) or saag/palak (spinach).
  • Experiment with authentic Indian vegetables like bhindi (okra) or baigan (eggplant).
  • Enjoy mattar paneer (peas and cheese dish), which has fibre-packed peas in it.

Caribbean

  • Explore new vegetables like callaloo (greens similar to spinach)
  • Get a side helping of steamed cabbage or cooked plantain.
  • Choose dishes that have pineapple or sweet potato.

No matter what type of food you enjoy, look out for veggies that are covered in sauces. Many sauces are high in sodium. And sauces that are creamy, like those made with coconut milk, cream, or cheese are also high in fat and calories.

Bottom Line

Eating out can be a nice treat, but most restaurant foods tend to be high in calories, fat and salt, and lower in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and milk. If you’re trying to eat healthier, you’re better off eating out less often. But here’s the good news: if consumers ask for healthier menu choices, restaurants will offer them.

Contact an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian for more tips on making smart choices when eating out. Call 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

Last Update – October 10, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.