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The Key to Healthy Eating When Dining Out

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you have to stop going out to restaurants. Whether you're grabbing a quick bite with the family or about to enjoy a three-course dinner at an upscale restaurant, navigating the menu doesn’t have to be a challenge. Even if you’re favorite spot has switched things up with seasonal menus, all you have to do is arm yourself with a few dining-out secrets and you won’t have to miss out on a delicious meal—especially if you’re vacationing!

How to Watch Your Weight or Your Gluten Free Diet at a Restaurant

If you’re watching your weight or have eating restrictions, you might feel like you have to avoid restaurants. That’s just not the case! You can eat out every day and still succeed with healthy eating. Here are some tips on how to dine out with your health in mind.

1. Make the right choices.
A double bacon cheeseburger with cheese fries. A decadent dish of fried shrimp parmesan. Chocolate lava cake. While we’d all surely love to devour these tempting menu items, the truth is there is more fat and calories in them than you should eat the entire day! If you’re craving fish, try to avoid the fried kind and go for the fresher fish of the day. At many restaurants in Wildwood NJ and other shore towns, you can actually request a certain cooking style. Broiled or grilled are much healthier options. If you have the option of choosing your side dish, avoid carb-loaded potatoes or pastas and opt for veggies instead. Most times it comes down to simple logic. If a dish comes with a heavy hollandaise sauce, ask for it on the side or even request none at all. And even if that lovely bread basket gets passed your way, that doesn’t mean you have to partake. Save the calories for the actual dinner.

2. Know what your plate should look like.
Typical Italian restaurants or American restaurants tend to give you double or even triple the amount protein and carbohydrates than you actually need. You just don’t need all that food! Your plate should consist of 50 percent veggies, 25 percent protein and 25 percent grains (unless you’re on a gluten-free diet, in which case many restaurants will accommodate your restrictions and even offer a gluten free menu). Seasonal menus will often offer a fish of the day or lighter options that are just as tasty without all the fat—and they usually come with the season’s freshest vegetables.

3. Know the lingo.
While browsing the menu, keep an eye out for words like crispy, dipped, pan-fried, gratin, Alfredo and scalloped. These are red flags indicating that the dish is loaded with hidden fat and sodium—the enemies of healthy eating. Instead, look for words such as steamed, baked or grilled, which help make the protein or fish of the day the star without all the additives.

4. Learn the cuts.
Many of us crave meat from time to time, but do you know which cuts are the healthiest? Choose leaner cuts of meat. A monster rib-eye may be calling your name, but you’re better off with a flank steak or filet mignon. Craving chicken? Go for the breast over the chicken thighs—and extra points for skinless breasts. The skin can add as much as eight grams of fat to the dish!

5. Don’t be fooled by salad.
Salads are a great choice when eating out, but you can ruin your diet by dousing it with fattening dressing, or choosing one loaded with bacon or high-fat cheese. You don’t have to order diet dressing. Just ask for whichever type you like on the side and drizzle no more than two tablespoons on top.

Dining out and healthy eating actually do go hand in hand. Whether you’re on vacation and enjoying restaurants in Wildwood NJ or the Jersey Shore, or just don’t feel like cooking at home, there are plenty of ways to watch your weight, stick to a gluten free diet and enjoy a delicious meal at the same time! Bon appetit!

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