You don’t have to be a foodie to know what tastes good, but you might have to do some research to know what to order (and what not to order) when you go out to eat. Whether due to a high calorie count, an enormous markup or the increased possibility of food poisoning, there are certain dishes you should avoid at all costs when eating out.
1. Iceberg Lettuce Salads
Salads can be tasty, healthy options in restaurants, and many menus today will offer delicious, protein-rich salads with nuts, goat cheese and other goodies. Just avoid the ones with iceberg lettuce. Why? Iceberg lettuce contains very few nutrients and tends to be a germ collector. It’s also highly marked up in restaurants, so just ditch this option all together.
2. Taco Salad
For the “disguised as a healthy salad, but not healthy at all” dish on the menu, beware the taco salad: something equal parts tempting and calorie-packed. Whether you’re at Taco Bell or a somewhat fancier establishment, a taco salad is hardly ever healthy. It combines some of the highest calorie ingredients such as avocado, sour cream, cheese and dressing, to name a few. This Mexican-inspired dish is something you should never order at a restaurant if you’re trying to eat clean.
3. Veggie Burgers
You might feel like you’re making the smart choice when you order a veggie burger in place of a good old-fashioned hamburger. However, veggie burgers often come frozen from the distributor, and because of this, are likely pumped full of a natural but dangerous preservative: sodium. By the time the burger reaches your plate and makes its way into your tummy, you might find yourself bloated, dehydrated and subject to the same number of calories as you would from a real burger. Go beef or go home. Literally.
Meatloaf is a hearty dish that might make you feel like you’re back in mom’s kitchen, but this dish is high in fat content, sodium and calories and often contains filler ingredients that are low in nutrients. When you see the words “mom’s” or “homemade” as a precursor, it’s a sign you should avoid this overly seasoned and sauced dish. If you’re looking for a healthy protein punch you won’t find it here; try a grilled meat option instead.
5. Seafood (Depending on the Spot)
We all love seafood, but unless you’re sitting down at a restaurant that’s known for its oysters, salmon or lobster, you might want to hold off on ordering any. Shucking shellfish or rolling sushi is likely not the kitchen’s specialty. It’s also not uncommon for distributors to swap one fish for another when dealing with unfamiliar restaurant owners. When you’re craving seafood, make a point of seeking it out at a specialty restaurant.
Though these items can be delicious, healthy and all around satisfying when cooked in your own kitchen (with ingredients you know and trust), you might be better off pretending they don’t exist on the menu. When in doubt, go for the house specialty or choose something locally sourced and sustainable.