Canada's food guide

Choosing healthy menu options

Choosing healthy menu options when you are eating out can be an important step to limiting highly processed foods. If you eat out often, remember that the foods you eat are a part of your eating pattern or routine and can impact your health.

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Benefits of choosing healthy menu options

It is important to make wise menu choices whether you are eating food from:

  • cafeterias
  • restaurants
  • coffee shops
  • fast food outlets

Often foods served in these places have a lot of:

  • sodium
  • sugars
  • saturated fat

Eating too much of these can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases like:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • some types of cancer

Many cafeterias, fast food outlets and restaurants now offer healthier menu options than their usual choices. Healthier options can include:

  • baked potato
  • fresh fruit salads
  • steamed vegetables
  • whole grain pizza crusts
  • berries with lower fat yogurt
  • baked, grilled or poached fish
  • salads with dressing on the side
  • grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bread

How to choose healthier menu options

Try these ideas to enjoy delicious meals and snacks while keeping healthy eating in mind. No matter what kind of restaurant you choose, some choices are healthier than others.

Find out how items are prepared and if the nutrition information is available. You can often find this information:

  • by asking
  • directly on the menu
  • on posters or pamphlets
  • online on the restaurant’s website

Choose foods cooked in healthier ways such as:

  • baked
  • grilled
  • broiled
  • poached

Ask for sauce and dressing “on the side” so you can control the amount. The sauces and dressings served are often highly processed. Only use a small amount.

Enjoy a colourful meal. Try:

  • squash dishes
  • a variety of colourful vegetables on rice
  • salads with dark leafy greens like spinach

Choose whole grain options. Ask for whole grain:

  • rice
  • pasta
  • bread

Limit cakes, cookies and rich desserts. If you do eat them, get a smaller size or share with someone.

Drink smart. Choose water instead of:

  • sugary drinks
  • alcoholic drinks

Healthy menu swaps

Try these swaps to make your choices healthier:

  • Order tomato sauces instead of alfredo or cheese sauces.
  • Flavour your food with lemon or pepper instead of salt, sauce or gravy.
  • Choose stir-fry vegetables with garlic instead of stir-fry vegetables in oyster sauce.
  • Choose dark mixed green salads with vegetables or fruits instead of salads like:
    • taco
    • pasta
    • potato
    • Caesar
  • Order the small or regular sized coffee, cappuccino or iced latté. Ask for your drink to be made with lower fat white milk or unsweetened fortified soy beverage instead of higher fat options. Skip the whipped cream topping.

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Make healthy choices when eating out
  • Choose a healthy drink

Further reading

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