For the strict clean eater, eating out can present some difficulties, particularly when with family or friends, and compromises must sometimes be made about where to visit. But you live only once, so let loose and enjoy yourself. Now get your green cuppa ready because today I want to share with you how to maintain your clean diet in these situations, and suggest some of the best options in not so always clean eating restaurants to keep everyone happy with the choices available. Clean eating and eating out doesn't get better than this!
First let’s take a look at the Chinese takeaway/restaurant. Authentic Chinese home cooking is actually amongst the healthiest cuisines in the world, but unfortunately relatively few of these recipes find their way into the westernised Chinese eateries. Often menus consist largely of deep-fried, battered or breaded options, and sauces such as sweet and sour and satay contain processed ingredients. These can also contain very high amounts of salt and/or sugar, something so many of us are trying to eliminate from our diets. Some restaurants also use mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) in their dishes and it is best to avoid these. Don’t be shy to ask about it, you are the customer after all.
Your best options here are stir-fried dishes which include plenty of vegetables – but do ask what oil your restaurant uses for their cooking, olive or nut oils being best. An omelette (or “foo-yung”) is another good choice, and can be ordered with a side of mixed vegetables. To be honest Chinese restaurants are the most “unclean” friendly, so if you can, avoid them.
As for Indian restaurants, do try to visit a place with a good reputation for using quality ingredients, and who cook their sauces from scratch. If you are unsure, ask, as those who are proud of their signature dishes will be only be too happy to tell you about them and what ingredients they use!
The best option is Shashlik, which is basically a kebab; ask for it to be served with some fresh salad. Alternatively there are some veg-heavy dishes, so opt for something like a Vegetable Balti or Bhuna, which have tomato-based sauces. Eat with a side of plain boiled rice – avoid fried versions. Tarka Dahl, a lentil based dish, can be also a fairly good choice as well as Chicken Tandoori.
It may seem obvious, but restaurants offering vegan and gluten – free options are likely to be the best choice for clean eaters. Check the menus before visiting or call them up and chat through your options. Look out also for restaurants which are open about the sourcing of their ingredients and who advertise the fact they use free range eggs, grass-fed beef, local organic produce and the like, as this tends to be a good indication of quality.
Moving on, let us take a look at what the well-known restaurant chains have to offer…
Clean eaters can pretty much rule out the likes of McDonalds, KFC and Burger King, all of whom have menus saturated in processed meats. They are also fried and topped with processed cheese and sauces, all served in white bread products. All three do offer a limited salad selection but nothing particularly exciting.
Pizza Hut has the advantage of offering unlimited salad with all their main meals, so if you are not eating pizza you can just scoff all of your dining partner’s salad –a very cheap date! If you don’t want to miss out on pizza, either share with others or order a smaller portion and go for the “Veggie” (with spinach, sweetcorn, peppers, onions and mushrooms) or perhaps “King of the Coast” which has prawns and mixed peppers.
Although the Subway adverts convey a healthy eating message, you my dear readers may be disappointed to note that much of the meat is processed, as is the cheese. However, you do have the option here to “have it your way” so ditch the bread and opt for a salad bowl – there is quite a large selection available.
At the popular Frankie and Benny’s chain, you will find a number of gluten-free options including a starter of chicken in little gem lettuce cups, and a steak and salad main option which means you can leave out the usual fries. Another tasty offering here is the Zingy Salmon salad, served with mixed leaves, red pepper, tomato, sweetcorn, cucumber and red onion. Frankie and Benny’s also offer some healthier dessert choices such as their “Mixed Fruit and Dips”.
Italian restaurants Prezzo and Strada have some nice salads on their menus as well as a tasty Sea Bass fillet on Basil mash with fresh tomatoes and black olives – yum! Both of these restaurants state that they use olive oil in their cooking and most of their dressings.
For Gourmet Burger Kitchen the “bunless” burger with a side salad is the only way up.
Wagamama offers a number of relatively clean dishes including a warm tofu salad, grilled tuna with stir-fried vegetables and some healthier Ramen combinations.
Nandos avocado salad with nuts and seeds is brilliant and butterfly chicken breast served with macho peas on the side won’t disappoint you either. Just don’t forget to take off the skin.
Giraffe is very clean eating friendly, although not exactly cheap here, the food is great. Sharers can expect platters of crudites and hummus or a “Global Mezze”, which contains lentils, veg and a chopped tomato salad. I personally love their sticky edamame beans. Giraffe caters for everyone, with an exciting and widely varied menu. For those eating clean, you could try the Tunisian Roasted Veggie and Feta Salad with peppers, beans, squash, cauliflower, tomato and chickpeas. If you want to include some meat, opt for the “No Bun” beef patty which is served with a delectable-sounding salad of quinoa, edamame, fresh herbs, avocado and tomato with an elderflower dressing. This dish is also available with a grilled chicken breast or a vegetarian option of falafel and hummus with the same salad. For smaller appetites, there are a range of healthy nibbles and a wholesome kids menu.
At TGI Fridays grilled salmon salad and steak with steamed vegetables are the safest options.
Wherever you decide to dine, do not be afraid to ask questions and if necessary, whether a dish can be modified for you. Remember, you are the customer and in the unlikely event that any special requests are denied, vote with your feet and go elsewhere!
PS: Leave a comment what are you favourite clean eating restaurants and your favourite dishes