Skip to main content

Heart-healthy dining out

  • Tips for eating out

    If your favorite restaurant doesn't offer specific heart-smart foods, you can still make wise choices.

    • Study the menu and ask how foods are prepared. Good choices: steamed, meat or fish in its own juice, garden fresh, broiled, roasted, poached. High fat choices: fried, breaded, battered, melted cheese on top, creamed, escalloped, butter sauce, pan-fried, sautéed, au gratin.
    • Ask for substitutions. Instead of butter, can you get trans fat-free margarine? Is fat-free milk available?
    • Order salad dressings and sauces to be served on the side so you control the amount that goes on your food. Ask for light dressing.
    • Try lemon juice or vinegar and oil in place of salad dressings.
    • Ask for mustard or ketchup on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise. If you have mayonnaise, order it on the side and use only a small amount.
    • Substitute fruit or vegetables for potato chips or french fries.
    • Order vegetarian pizza instead of pepperoni or sausage. Ask for half the cheese and more tomato sauce.
    • At fast food restaurants, order plain foods, such as a regular hamburger or a broiled chicken breast. Skip the bacon, cheese and sauces.
    • For dessert, try a scoop of frozen yogurt, sherbet, gelatin or fresh berries.
    • Be aware of your serving sizes. Larger serving sizes mean more sodium and fat.

    Low saturated fat and sodium guidelines for eating out

    Use the following chart to help you make low-fat or low-sodium choices at eight types of restaurants.

    • Choose grilled or baked chicken or fish, baked potatoes (without butter or sour cream), steamed vegetables and tossed salads with low-fat dressing.
    • Ask for a side salad instead of french fries or chips.
    • Choose low-fat or fat-free yogurt or sherbet for dessert.
    Restaurant type Foods to choose Foods to avoid

    Fast food

    For more information, ask for a handout from the restaurant that lists the amount of fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories in each item.

    • Order a prepackaged salad with low-fat salad dressing.
    • Order sandwiches without pickles, olives, mayonnaise, cheese and sauces (such as special sauce, tartar sauce, etc.).
    • Try roasted or broiled meat sandwiches.
    • A hamburger is a better choice than a fried fish sandwich.
    • Order submarine sandwiches with lean meats and add lots of vegetables.

    Fast food is generally not the most heart-smart choice.

    • Avoid breaded chicken, fried fish, onion rings and french fries.
    • Skip the cheese, bacon and large serving of hamburger.
    • Avoid malts or milkshakes.

    Family-style food

    • Avoid dishes with lots of cheese, sour cream or cream sauces (Hollandaise, Bearnaise, Alfredo).
    • Avoid fried fish or chicken.
    • Avoid items that include the words: smothered, fried, breaded or creamy.
    • Avoid appetizer-type foods, au gratin potatoes, prime rib, cream soups and milkshakes.
    Asian food
    • Choose menu items that are made to order and include a variety of vegetables, rather than ones prepared ahead of time (such as a buffet).
    • Ask that your food be prepared without salt, soy sauce or MSG.
    • Spring rolls usually are not deep fried.
    • Request steamed rice instead of fried rice.
    • Order entrées with vegetables and lean meat, chicken, fish or tofu.
    • Avoid deep-fried egg rolls, wontons, tofu, meats and noodles.
    • Skip curry sauces and gravies.
    Mexican food
    • Choose items with a variety of vegetables and very little cheese.
    • Choose beans, rice, corn or flour tortillas, lean meat and chicken items (fajitas, chile verde).
    • Avoid deep fried tortilla chips and taco shells. Use very little cheese or sour cream.
    Italian food
    • Choose items that are fixed to order. Or, order sauces on the side.
    • Choose items with tomato or red clam sauce.
    • Avoid items in heavy cream sauces such as Alfredo.
    Vegetarian food and salad bars
    • Choose whole grain breads and other grain products, tofu, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Choose vinegar and a little oil or lemon juice as salad dressing. Or, select the low-fat or low-calorie dressing if available.
    • Avoid bacon bits, pickles, salted sunflower seeds, meat salads (tuna or chicken salads) and cheese.
    Greek and Middle Eastern food
    • Choose lean beef or lamb, vegetables and rice.
    • Choose tabouli salad, shish kebab, souvlaki, couscous, rice pilaf and pita bread.
    • Avoid deep fried foods and oily dipping sauces.
    Indian food
    • Ask that your food be made without salt. Many unique spices add flavor so you won't miss the sodium.
    • Choose dals (legume-based dishes), rice-based dishes, lentil dishes, tandoori chicken or fish, and salads or vegetables with yogurt dressing.
    • Avoid curry dishes because they are made with coconut milk.
  • Did you know?

    Eating a healthful diet low in salt can help to lower your blood pressure. Salt makes your body hold extra fluid. This puts a strain on your heart.


  • If you see this message, you must refresh before proceeding with editing!


Copyright Information

This site is presented for information only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Allina Health®, Allina®, the Allina Health logo, and Medformation® are registered trademarks of Allina Health System. Presentation and Design ©2015 Allina Health. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED