Eating Out at Restaurants and Brain Power Diet
Like the rest of your brainpower diet, there is a right way and a wrong way to eat out
Here we’ll name 10 restaurants for brain-healthy food fast along with best ordering practices for getting healthier food at casual and fine-dining “sit down” restaurants.
Update: I’m now (sort of) anti-restaurants as a biohacker — restaurants (even most of the classier joints) just have very low standards; their priority is always the bottom line not serving quality organic food. But, inevitably you’re going to eat out so I’d urge you to be a bit more conscious about your selections…
“Healthy” fast food restaurants
Almost everybody gets that fast food is bad for you; most fast-food restaurants distribute cheap food, light on essential nutrients, that is bad for your body and mind. I think it’s pretty much common sense that a greasy, fried hamburger costing less than $5 is not a good thing to put in your body. Pick BBQ, broiled, chicken, or roast beef sandwiches. Also, consider a normal hamburger instead of jumbo burgers and fried stuff.
Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants (from Health.com)
#1 Panera Bread
We love: The delicious, nutrient-packed combinations like a half turkey Artichoke w/focaccia bread plus a bowl of black bean or maybe garden vegetable soup.
Danger zone: Delicious sticky buns & cheese snacks are on display by the checkout.
#2 Jason’s Deli
We love: Building a sandwich on an organic whole-wheat wrap.
Danger zone: High-sodium counts on some sandwiches; if sodium is a concern, stick to the ultra-healthy choices.
#3 Au Bon Pain
We love: Yummy low-cal soups, from Jamaican Black Bean to Fire Roasted Exotic Grains and Vegetables.
Danger zone: The sodium counts can get high if you don’t pay attention.
#4 Noodles and Company
We love: The whole-grain linguine, typically difficult to find at fast food joints.
Danger zone: Avoid the desserts! The sole options are two types of cookies and the Rice Krispy Treat bar (530 calories & 19 grams of fat).
#5 Corner Bakery Cafe
We love: Very healthy oven-roasted chicken, served on most pastas and salads.
Danger zone: Visit their website to get nutritional facts on the menu items.
We love: Burrito Bowls, which let you skip the tortilla — and the extra carbs.
Danger zone: The dark side of a buffet is that you can go wild. So you have to go light on cheese and sour cream.
#7 Atlanta Bread
We love: The Salsa Fresca Salmon Salad is a winner, wild Alaskan salmon filet includes roasted bean & a pineapple-mango sauce & salsa.
Danger zone: The pasta entrees with bread are bad news … Carb avalanche!
We love: Grilled chicken Snack Wraps(260–270 calorie), great for protein sans mucho unwanted carbs.
Danger zone: Even though McDonald’s made our list, this is still the domain of supersized burgers and giant sugary sodas. Just say no.
#9 Einstein Bros. Bagels
We love: The high-fiber Veg Out on a sesame seed bagel.
Danger zone: “Overstuffed” size sandwiches are a calorie nightmare.
#10 Taco Del Mar
We love: The 460- to 555-calorie Mondito-size burrito, which fills you up but keeps fat and sodium in check.
Danger zone: The breakfasts. In particular, steer clear of the Mondo Breakfast Burritos, which are more than 1,000 calories.
Casual/formal dining restaurants
Casual dining or formal dining (what does “formal dining” even mean anymore?) restaurants are usually a better solution for Limitless dining. First of all, you are less rushed so you actually get to properly digest your food and make a more informed ordering decision. You are also probably dining with friends or family so you will have the opportunity during the conversation to tell them about your new mind power diet.
- Practice eating smaller portions. Have a lower fat appetizer w/your group to satiate your hunger and then take home half the entrée. Not only will this save you money it will also decrease your caloric intake of fatty fill-me-up foods.
- At a steakhouse, trim the fat from boiled meat and order without sauces or gravy.
- Avoid buffets and all-you-can-eat specials.
- Request items to be made without toxic PUFA oils.
Tips for eating out
- Have a small snack 30 minutes before your meal so you can practice a little better self-control with your choices. Eat a piece of fruit or one of the snacks from the Limitless Snacking Guide.
- When ordering pizza, ask for extra vegetable toppings, forget pizzas with excessive meat or cheese. Good vegetable pizzas can be just as delicious as cheese or meat pizza. If your pizza parlor doesn’t make a vegetable pizza that satisfies you, search on Google or Yelp.com for the highest-rated pizza parlor in your city. Usually, the locally owned places make a whole lot better pizza than the chains.
- Look for restaurants that serve organic, gluten-free food.
- Breaded, batter-dipped, and tempura all mean fried food, which is heavy in fat. Instead look for lower fat, broiled, grilled, or flame-cooked.
- For sauces, stick to wine, or thinned stock-based sauces. Avoid thick butter sauces, Mornay, béarnaise, or different creamy sauces. When in question, ask the waiter.
- Absolutely avoid MSG, monosodium glutamate is a neurotoxin. When going to an ethnic restaurant call ahead to make sure they do not have MSG in their food.
- When ordering Chinese/Oriental, many menu items can be made to order. Request no oil (ask for broth or stock instead) or ask for only a small amount of oil.
- When ordering Mexican, go easy on chips and fried items on the menu such as chili Rellenos, nachos, chorizo, chimichangas, flautas, and taco bowl salads. Burritos are not recommended, with heavy amounts of cheese and flour in the tortillas they are too high in carbs. Corn tortillas or naked burritos are a bit better.
Economics of eating out
When eating out you mostly get what you pay for. If you are going to inexpensive chain or franchise restaurants, they are using inorganic food ingredients and getting their food from the large manufacturers who are notorious for producing their food with little concern for nutritional quality.
Eating out the healthy way frequently can be an expensive habit. If you can’t afford it make a point to eat at home more often or make it a point to snack throughout the day and bring the Limitless snack foods with you to work. Eating out at restaurants weekly is a “middle-class habit” that keeps you poor…
But, I do eat out infrequently (maybe once a month) on date nights with my wife as a well-deserved indulgence or to celebrate something.
When eating out, as with most things in life, quality is recommended over quantity. Dine out weekly (or monthly — depending upon your financial means) to restaurants that serve the kind of food you should be eating instead of going to out frequently to establishments that serve food of dubious nutritional value.
Food Forensics by Mike Adams is the book that woke me up to the toxicity of modernity, particularly the toxicity of most food that you find at the grocery store or are served at restaurants. It’s a pretty dense read so check out my book review where I break down what you need to know to avoid toxin-rife food — here’s the podcast version…