Protein-Powered Dining: How to Eat Healthy At A Restaurant

Protein-Powered Dining: How to Eat Healthy At A Restaurant

After 20 years in the fitness industry, helping everyone from artists, actors, and CEOs to everyday folks achieve superhero-level fitness. Today, I'm excited to share my strategy for making smart choices when dining out at restaurants or ordering takeout. Healthy restaurant dining is not as complicated as it might seem, and you shouldn’t have to miss out on eating out because of it.

Eating out is one of the best parts of life, and it doesn't need to be unhealthy.Today, I'll walk you through some tips and tricks on how to eat healthy at a restaurant, no matter what type of restaurant you're in.

The Complexity of Dining Out

Eating out can be a bit of a challenge when you're trying to stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Let's face it; it's not easy to count calories, track macros, or even know where your food is sourced from when you're enjoying a meal at a restaurant. 

That’s why a lot of us tend to either avoid eating out altogether, or avoid healthy eating for fear that it’ll stop you from being able to enjoy eating out with your friends and family.

Eating healthy at a restaurant can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. So, what can you do? Well, you can focus on what you can control.

Prioritizing Food You Love

First things first, don't make healthy restaurant dining a chore. Prioritize food that you genuinely enjoy. There's no point in going to a restaurant and ordering something you don't like just because it's deemed "healthy." 

It's okay to indulge occasionally, but the key is to make smart choices most of the time, and find a balance between what’s healthy and what you enjoy.

The Protein Priority

Let's dive deeper into what I like to call the "Protein Priority" when it comes to dining out. Protein is the unsung hero of a healthy meal, and it can make all the difference in your dining experience. Here's why it should be your top priority:

Satiety and Fullness

Protein has a remarkable ability to keep you feeling full and satisfied. When you start your meal with a protein-rich appetizer or double up on protein in your main course, you're less likely to overindulge in less healthy options. This means you'll leave the restaurant feeling content rather than stuffed.

Muscle Building and Repair 

If you're into fitness or simply want to maintain your muscle mass, protein is essential. It provides the building blocks your body needs to repair and grow muscle tissue. By prioritizing lean protein when dining out, you're supporting your fitness goals.

Calorie Control

Protein can help you control your calorie intake. When you focus on protein, you're less likely to consume excess calories from unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. This can be a game-changer if you're watching your weight.

Balanced Macronutrients

A meal rich in protein often comes with a balanced ratio of macronutrients – protein, fats, and carbs. This balance helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes and cravings later on.

How to Implement the Protein Priority

Now, here's the thing, protein can be expensive when eating out. So, let's talk practical strategies for implementing the Protein Priority when dining out:

Start with Protein

When you open the menu at a restaurant, your eyes should gravitate toward protein-rich starters. Look for options like bean salads, carpaccio, or grilled octopus. These appetizers not only kickstart your meal with protein but also set a healthy tone for what's to come.

Double Up on Protein

In your main course, make sure there's a generous serving of protein. If you're ordering Thai food, for instance, ask for extra chicken or tofu. This tactic ensures that you're getting a substantial dose of protein to support your nutrition goals.

Variety is Key

While prioritizing protein, don't forget about the other elements of your meal. Balance your plate with slow carbs like quinoa or brown rice and incorporate good fats from sources like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. This combination ensures a well-rounded meal that covers all your nutritional bases.

Incorporating the Protein Priority into your dining out routine doesn't mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment. On the contrary, it can enhance your dining experience by helping you make choices that align with your health and fitness goals. So, the next time you dine out, remember to keep protein at the forefront of your meal strategy – your body will thank you for it.

Choosing Quality Over Quantity

While prioritizing healthy choices when dining out is crucial, it's equally important to know which foods to steer clear of. These are the culprits that can derail your efforts to eat healthily and leave you feeling sluggish or guilty afterward. Here's a list of foods to avoid:

Fried and Breaded Items

Anything labeled "deep fried," "crispy," or "breaded" should send up a red flag. These dishes are typically loaded with unhealthy saturated fats and extra calories. Whether it's fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, or onion rings, opt for healthier preparation methods whenever possible.

Sugary Beverages

One of the easiest ways to consume excessive calories is through sugary drinks. Soda, sweet tea, and even some fruit juices are often packed with added sugars. Instead, choose water, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water with a splash of citrus for a refreshing, calorie-free option.

Creamy Sauces and Dressings

Cream-based sauces and dressings can turn a seemingly healthy dish into a calorie bomb. Dishes smothered in Alfredo sauce or salads drowning in creamy dressings can sabotage your meal. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side, or choose vinaigrettes and tomato-based sauces for a lighter option.

Oversized Portions

Restaurant portions are notorious for being oversized. Don't hesitate to ask for a to-go box right when your meal arrives and portion out what you plan to eat. This strategy helps you be more aware of portion sizes and avoid mindlessly finishing everything on your plate.

Buffet Traps

Buffets can be a minefield of unhealthy choices. The endless variety can lead to overeating and a mix of foods that don't necessarily complement each other. If you find yourself at a buffet, start with a side salad or veggies before moving on to other options.

Remember, dining out should still be an enjoyable experience. It's okay to indulge occasionally, but being aware of these food items to avoid can help you choose healthier options without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. By making informed decisions, you can savor your meal and leave the restaurant feeling nourished and guilt-free.

Life Is About Balance

Lastly, remember that life is all about balance. You don't have to eat perfectly every single time you dine out. In fact, I encourage you to enjoy life by indulging occasionally. For example, I'm a big fan of pizza, and you'll catch me savoring a slice every once in a while. That's perfectly fine as long as it's an occasional treat.

The main idea here is that healthy restaurant dining is within your reach. It's all about making informed choices, prioritizing what you love, and focusing on protein-rich, nutrient-dense options. By following these strategies, you can enjoy dining out while staying on track with your health and fitness goals.

If you want more tips, tricks, and workout routines, follow me on Instagram. And if you're looking for comprehensive fitness and nutrition plans, check out my programs on

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