1. Dine at a chain. While not the most exciting or glamorous, restaurant chains have the budget to invest in providing nutrition information. If you’re watching every calorie, choose a place that publishes the nutrition of their food. Chili’s Guiltless Grill options may sound dull, so try Modmarket or Muscle Maker Grill — the lean protein, whole grains and extra dose of veggies in their dishes will keep you full and make for a nutritionally wholesome meal.
2. Eat Vietnamese. Drop into DaLat on Fitzhugh or the plentiful pho restaurants in Richardson for a warm bowl of noodle soup. Bone broth, the base of pho, has many health benefits, including improved digestion and joint strength. Get the small size, choose chicken or beef round, and load it up with bean sprouts and jalapeños. If you’re not in the mood for soup, grab some spring rolls from Roll n’ Go — flavorful meat and veggies packed in rice wrappers make a balanced meal.
3. Grab some tacos. Yes, tacos. The biggest problem with eating out is serving size. We’re often given way too much food on our plate, and we compulsively eat all of it. Tacos are portion control in a corn tortilla, and they’re nicely balanced with starchy carbs (tortilla), protein (your meat of choice), fat (cooking oil) and fiber (veggie toppings). Stick to two tacos and be smart in your selections — choose the lower-calorie corn tortillas over flour, and avoid high-fat, calorie-dense meat. Ahi tacos from Torchy’s or Velvet Taco, slow-cooked chicken or vegetable tacos at Resident Taqueria, or sirloin and chicken tacos from El Come Taco will fit right into your diet.
4. Opt for small plates. Continuing with the portion-control strategy, you can still enjoy the atmosphere of fine dining while cutting calories. One to two small plates are often a proper sized meal for the average person, so stick to those instead of ordering a main course. Try the grilled octopus and the carrots at Filament or the hamachi crudo and roasted romanesco at Meddlesome Moth.
5. Go low-carb with sashimi. If you’re trying to avoid grains, splurge on the sashimi at your favorite sushi restaurant. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are nutritional powerhouses, delivering a big amount of your required daily vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The fat and protein from the fish will keep you satiated for hours after your meal. Or venture outside the norm — top restaurants like Yutaka, Tei Tei Robata, and Uchi offer quality sea urchin, mackerel, snapper, and rare, seasonal selections. Round out dinner with seaweed salad and miso soup, which also provide you with key minerals.
6. Nosh on Mediterranean ... carefully. The Mediterranean diet is frequently boasted of as the healthiest in the world, but most Mediterranean restaurants are not the epitome of nutrition. Mediterranean buffets have sprung up all over Dallas, and it’s far too easy to overeat and pick the high-calorie options when it’s all spread out in front of you. As delicious as falafel and fried cauliflower are, skip the lunch buffet and head to Sevan G&G or Pera, where you can order chicken, lamb or shrimp kebabs with a side of grilled veggies.
7. Savor some seafood. Grilled seafood is the perfect choice for a nice evening out while being conscious of your diet goals. Rex’s Seafood, Dallas Fish Market, and Cafe Pacific serve fish off the grill instead of the fryer, and vegetables are easy to find. Definitely get the grilled shrimp or the blackened snapper, but think twice before ordering anything pan-seared in butter.
8. Try Thai. You can’t go wrong with a Thai stir-fry. Choose the most appealing combination — Thai basil adds powerful flavor, and water chestnuts and bamboo shoots diversify your diet. Thai Opal in Lake Highlands and Bangkok City on Bryan Street dish out excellent entrees. If you’re after something heavier, order a coconut milk-based curry at the other Bangkok City on Greenville or brave the heat of the curries at Pakpao. They’ll fill you up and give you a dose of healthy fat for around 500 calories without rice. Keep in mind that the mound of rice that comes with your dishes is often double or triple the recommended serving size; leave half your rice on your plate to avoid overconsumption.
9. Choose chocolate. If your friend is craving something sweet and begging you to get dessert, there are ways to indulge without negating the hour you spent on the treadmill. Go to Chocolate Secrets, Kate Weiser or CocoAndre for handcrafted chocolates. Feast with your eyes before carefully selecting one or two, and savor each bite. An average chocolate truffle clocks in around 60 calories apiece, so you can easily work a treat into your diet.
10. Get a burger. Not all burgers have to be fatty, calorie-laden beef patties. Twisted Root offers a bison patty, which has 25 percent fewer calories than a regular beef burger and a larger amount of iron. Turkey burgers are easy to come by, and Grub and Liberty Burger have chicken and fish patty options. Going back to the chain idea, a Whataburger Jr. without cheese is 310 calories — not bad at all if you're desperately craving ground meat on a bun. Skip the fries, keep your toppings simple and double up on your veggies.