Learn the foods to avoid for inflammation (and what to order) at your favorite restaurants.
Advertisement
Credit: Photo: sf_foodphoto / Getty

Following an anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t mean you have to cook all of your meals at home. With a few smart tips, it’s easy to dine out without throwing your health goals off track. The following guidelines will help you tamper inflammation while eating at a restaurant, with an emphasis on what to order (and what to avoid, too). 

1) Focus on lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables

Much like the Mediterranean diet, the anti-inflammatory diet focuses on a high portion of fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of lean proteins, and healthy fats, with minimal red meats and processed foods. A great example would be grilled chicken or fish with veggies or on a salad. If you were dining at a sushi restaurant, an ideal order would be a tuna or salmon sushi with a side of vegetables, brown rice, and low-sodium soy sauce. Avoid anything tempura-style, rolled with white rice, or sweetened, creamy sauces.  

2) Practice portion control

Many restaurant portions can be two or three servings, instead of one. To cut back, bulk up the meal with extra vegetables and save leftovers to be taken home. At an Italian restaurant, you could order grilled chicken or fish with a side of vegetables, or a whole-wheat pasta dish with an olive oil or marinara sauce. Ask for a side of veggies to add to the pasta and set aside some to be taken home later. 

3) Drink plenty of water

Proper hydration can contribute to lower inflammation, more energy, and less pain. Restaurants tend to go overboard on the salt, so counteract the sodium with plenty of water. Additionally, if you want to order a glass of red wine, ask for a glass of water along with it. 

4) Watch your sugar intake

Refined sugars are associated with higher inflammation, so stick to fruits or a piece of dark chocolate if you’re craving something sweet. That being said, a lot of restaurants will sneak tons of sugar into sauces and seasonings. Look up the nutrition information in advance if you can, or simply ask for any sauces or seasonings on the side. At a Thai restaurant, you should skip the pad Thai and pad see ew, which are laden with sugary sauce, and order a summer roll (not a spring roll), papaya salad, and chicken satay. 

5) Stick to beans or whole grains

Legumes are a great source of protein and fiber — key to reducing inflammation and boosting immunity. Whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice, can be included in moderation for bulk and satiety. At a Mexican restaurant, skip the carb-loaded burrito in favor of a salad with lettuce, black beans, guacamole, salsa, and grilled chicken or fish. 

6) Grilled instead of fried

Fried foods are a common source of trans fats, which are linked to systemic inflammation in women. To avoid them, stick to grilled proteins instead of fried, and keep an eye out for fast foods, shortening, margarine, and packaged snacks.

7) Keep an eye on the spices — good and bad

As mentioned above, many restaurant seasoning mixes can contain secret sugars and a ton of sodium. However, many herbs and spices, like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic, have excellent anti-inflammatory benefits. Indian cooking often emphasizes these spices, especially if you order a lentil or bean-based curry or dal. Chicken or fish tandoori would be another great choice, but skip anything that’s cooked in a cream sauce and pass on the naan. Additionally, if you were dining at a steakhouse, you could order a grilled steak with no seasonings, and add salt and pepper to taste at the table.