Eating out doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. Here are six tips to help you navigate a menu and ask for what you want in a restaurant.
It’s Thursday and I’m still thinking about a ridiculous experience I had at a restaurant last weekend. We were at a new and trendy yet casual neighborhood place for dinner. I scanned the salad offerings and dismissed the vinaigrette-dressed roasted beets (not my favorite), the Southwest (loaded with refried beans and cheese)—and then I zeroed in on the mixed baby greens with creamy buttermilk dressing. I asked my server (“Mike, I’m happy to be taking care of you tonight”) if I could please have the mixed baby greens with the vinaigrette instead of the buttermilk dressing. “I’ll need to check with the chef,” he told me. “Our menu clearly states, ‘no modifications.’” Huh? After a few minutes he came back—with attitude. “The chef said he’ll make an exception.” Looking down his nose at me, I half expected him to add, “Just this once.”
Now let’s be clear. I wasn’t asking for something not on the menu. I wasn’t messing with what could possibly be thought of as a ‘signature dish.’ And I was pretty sure the greens hadn’t been tossed in buttermilk dressing ahead of time. No restaurant would do that unless they wanted to serve a soggy mess. I just wanted my salad with a different dressing.
Before you even walk into a restaurant, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on the menu. You might even have some idea of what you’d like to order. If you sharpen your menu reading skills and know what adjustments you can reasonably ask for, it shouldn’t be a struggle to get what you want in a restaurant.
Still hungry for more? See my smart ordering in restaurants article for more tips on how to keep your diet in check when you’re dining out.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.