My entrée certainly sounded innocuous, yet it arrived egg-battered and drowning in some syrupy, sugary sauce.
Full disclosure: I’d become distracted by my dinner date at a hip new Italian bistro and figured a grilled chicken dish where I subbed another green veggie for the scalloped potatoes sounded perfectly healthy. Was I ever wrong, and my bad decision confirmed the biggest restaurant rule: Never, ever assume anything. If you have the slightest bit of doubt, ask, which ultimately becomes easier than sending something back.
Because I travel about half the year, I eat out a lot. I’m thrilled to find healthier restaurant options like grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, and organic produce. At the same time, the terrain’s still tricky. Most restaurant foods come cooked in soybean oil; genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remain a concern; and many places use sugary sauces, MSG, gluten-containing spices, and other food intolerances in even healthy-sounding dishes.
A few ground rules about eating out: Don’t allow bread, chips, and other starters on your table. If you need a pre-meal nibble, ask for olives, guacamole with veggies, or a non-starchy veggie. If your friends insist on dessert and you’re aching to try it, stick to my three-bite rule: Have three (polite!) bites and step away from the crème brûlée. I try to keep my pinot noir till dessert, which helps me stick with one—OK, maybe two—glasses to prevent pre-meal tipsiness.
Above all, being assertive yet super nice to your server and improvising a little make eating nearly anywhere a breeze. Here’s how I do that in 10 restaurants: