Restaurant Rehab: Using the Menu to Make Heart Healthy Choices

Thanks to patient education at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center  for providing this helpful information for our patients.

It can be hard to find heart healthy restaurant foods. Restaurant foods are often high in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. For this reason, limit eating restaurant foods to 1 or 2 times a week. This includes fast food, sit down restaurants and carry out. Here are some other tips to help you make heart healthy choices.

Tips to Reduce Calories, Fat and Cholesterol

  • Restaurant meal portions are enough to feed at least 2 people.
  • Split a meal with another person or take at half of the meal home for leftovers.
  • Ask your server about ways to make a healthier meal. Avoid deep fried foods, remove skin from poultry, and cut off visible fat. Try grilled chicken instead of fried chicken to reduce fat and calories.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat, fish or poultry prepared with no added fat.
  • Broiling, grilled, baked and roasted are usually good choices.
  • Get sauces, gravies, margarine, butter, salad dressing and sour cream on the side. Use small amounts of these for flavor.
  • Ask for other high fat ingredients on the side like cheese and nuts.
  • Many salads are loaded with high fat ingredients like these. You can still eat some of them, but if you get them on the side, you can control the amount.

Tips to Reduce Sodium

  • Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet. When eating out, talk to your server to find out how foods are prepared. Ask that foods be prepared without salt when possible.
  • Avoid soy sauce and teriyaki sauce which contain very large amounts of sodium or ask them to prepare your meal without these ingredients.
  • Make careful selections in fast food restaurants. Try to order foods plain or ask for condiments and sauces on the side. Ask that salt not be added to French fries and hamburgers. Plain hamburgers are usually not too high in sodium.
  • Cheeseburgers, specialty burgers, sauces, Southern-style chicken and condiments (ketchup or catsup, barbeque sauce and prepared mustard) contain large amounts of sodium. Try lettuce, tomato and onion instead.
  • Avoid sausage, hot dogs, bacon, ham and all cured meats. They contain too much sodium. Plain grilled chicken may have less.
  • Select a fresh fruit cup or vegetable salad to start your meal as an  appetizer instead of soup or other appetizers. Choose fresh meats (broiled or baked), fish or poultry prepared without sauces and gravies.
  • Choose plain rolls instead of salted bread sticks or salted crackers. Ask  that salad dressing, sauces and gravies not be added to foods or that they  be served on the side and only use small amounts.
  • Baked potatoes are good side choices, so are steamed vegetables. Avoid potato chips, potato sticks, onion rings and hash brown or au gratin potatoes.
  • Select a restaurant that has a salad bar. Assemble your salad with fresh,  raw vegetables. Use only small amounts of these high sodium foods: olives, pickled beets, bacon bits, ham regular salad dressing and cheese.
  • Consider oil and vinegar for salad dressing.

For a complete list of Resaturant Foods to Choose, visit:

Talk to your doctor or others on your health care team if you have
any questions. You may request more written information from the
Library for Health Information at (614) 293-3707 or email:

Copyright 2003 – March 22, 2012. The Ohio State  University Wexner Medical Center – Upon request all patient education handouts are available in other formats for people with special hearing, vision and language needs, call (614) 293-3191.


Comments are closed.