You can eat healthfully anywhere, right? Sure. But, it seems to us that the path to a gluten-free dinner or vegan-friendly lunch can be fraught with social dangers. No one wants to be that guy – or have dinner with the guy who doesn’t know he’s that guy.
Dining out can be tough when you eat clean – in more ways than you might expect. Not only does it take a little ingenuity to order well, it takes a little planning in order not to disrupt every one at your table. Is there a way to order a meal that’s suited to your diet without reconstructing the entire menu, peppering the waiter with twenty questions and bringing conversation with your friends to a screeching halt?
We asked Mark Strausman, executive chef Freds at Barneys New York to let us in on a little advice from a chef’s perspective. If any chef is familiar with this topic, it’s got to be the chef at Freds who oversees one of the most quintessential ladies-who-have-lunch spots in all of L.A. Fred’s gorgeous Beverly Hills dining room is perched high atop Barney’s glossy, fashion-filled floors with a view of the hills. We suspect they get more healthy dining requests here than your average cafe. Here are a few tips on ordering healthfully and well from Chef Strausman…
7 healthy dining tips from Freds at Barneys New York
I recommend checking the menu and calling the restaurant beforehand to explain your restrictions. Chefs always want to be able to please their customers; whether it’s dietary, religious or personal restrictions, service is at the forefront of every decision we make. More often than not, if they’re unable to accommodate your request, it’s not because they’re annoyed but likely because they don’t have the capacity. At Freds, we’re lucky to have a large kitchen at each of our locations, so no request is too small, nor too big.
When ordering, ask for what you want versus what you don’t want. Chefs work well with direction, so being straightforward will yield the best results. Instead of removing every component of a dish, tell them what you want and work with the kitchen to see what’s feasible.
Look for modern options
Pizza is one of my favorite items at Freds and, sadly, a temptation for most dieters. We recently introduced a vegan pizza that replaces dairy with cashew cheese and it is now one of our most popular items on the menu. For healthy eaters, view a pizza as a palette for vegetables. If there’s no vegan option, order it sans cheese and top it with marinara and your favorite vegetables – my go-to topping is spicy red peppers.
Grill it up
For meats and fish, ask to have grilled over a sautéed preparation – at Freds, we always offer both preparations. A little olive oil and garlic goes a long way and will help you avoid complex sauces that could do more harm than good.
When ordering a green side, always opt for a steamed preparation. If you’re craving more flavor, ask that they are tossed lightly in olive oil and garlic. My favorite side at Freds is actually our steamed broccoli!
On the side
When ordering a salad, always opt for a low-cal dressing on the side. At Freds, we make a low-cal dressing with mustard and balsamic that I like to call “your diet guru.” If you’re at a restaurant and there’s no healthy option for dressing, simply ask the kitchen for a side of mustard and balsamic and you can mix it tableside.
If you’re looking for a healthy drink option at dinner, choose red wine. It is typically more slowly consumed, versus white wine, and includes more antioxidants than any other alcoholic beverage. Stay away from drinks that include fruit juices of unspecified origin.