13 Healthy Restaurant Dishes Chefs Actually Order

Take it from these chefs — restaurant dining can be both delicious and healthy.

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How Chefs Order Healthy

137: How many more calories were consumed per day by people who rarely cooked dinner at home compared to those who almost always did, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research. Now we're not saying to avoid eating out altogether, but nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., owner of Essential Nutrition for You and author of The One One One Diet says it’s important to pick your battles when considering the nutrition quotient of restaurant fare. "Pick one protein, one carbohydrate and one fat to enjoy at your meal. This allows you to choose what you want, but limits the extras. For example, when I eat out at a Mexican restaurant, I skip the chips so that I can enjoy a burrito," she says. We spoke to 13 chef and bakers from coast to coast to steal their tasty yet healthy menu picks.

Tandoori Kabobs

The Chef: Maneet Chauhan, executive chef and owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tennessee

The Order: "Although I don’t always go for the most nutritious dishes when I eat out, at Indian restaurants, I like to order whole-wheat rotis with any kabobs that are made in a tandoor because it’s truly the healthiest way of cooking. Cooking in a tandoor is a technique that keeps your meat low in fat while still keeping all of the juices sealed in."

Margherita Pizza

The Chef: Salvatore Marcello, executive chef at MAMO Restaurant in New York City

The Order: "Most people don't think of pizza as healthy, but in Campania, pizza is considered a simple meal that is filling but not too heavy. If I want an easy dinner that makes me feel good after eating, I get a Neapolitan-style pizza Margherita made with authentic ingredients and with a well-risen dough. The combination of these is hypnotizing — it's the perfect harmony and balance of the Mediterranean diet, and, of course, it smells like home."

Paleo-Friendly Bowl

The Chef: Jarrod Moiles, executive chef at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, California

The Order: "I follow a mostly Paleo lifestyle, so I try to look for salads with protein and without grain, gluten, dairy and soy. When eating at a taco restaurant, I get a lettuce bowl with double meat and pickled veggies. If I’m in the mood for a burger, I remove the bun and add bacon, egg and avocado."


The Baker: Greg Wade, head baker at Publican Quality Bread in Chicago, Illinois

The Order: "My fiance and I cook at home most nights, but when I do go out, it's for something I can't make as good at home. I love going to Oiistar and get their umami ramen bowl with spicy paste. It’s loaded with fermented foods and the spicy paste kicks up the flavor — while being good for my heart, too. Nutrition is important to me. At the end of the day, all you have is yourself and your health. Eating properly and exercising I believe plays a huge part in overall health. I rarely get sick and if I do it is not for long and can really attribute that to ordering produce and meats from our local farms. Knowing where food is from and how it’s grown is a high priority for me."


The Chef: Fernando Marulanda, executive chef at Upper Story by Charlie Palmer in New York City

The Order: "It can be a challenge to find items that fit my Keto diet. While I have eaten loads of salads, I find a meal that consistently bursts with flavor and contains good fat and limited carbs are taquitos. A flour tortilla taco has about 15 to 19 grams of carbs because of the tortilla, but the rest is protein and fat. I can get grilled chicken with avocado, peppers and onions, cilantro, crema, limes and radishes for a delicious crunch. I love the fact I can efficiently manage my portion control by ordering one or two taquitos, or three if I’m famished. Usually, I will add a cucumber agua fresca as a light and refreshing beverage option."

Sauteed Spinach

The Chef: Gemma Kamin-Korn, executive chef of Bar Beau in Brooklyn, New York

The Order: "I grew up with a hippy, vegetarian mother, so nutritious eating has been ingrained in me from a young age. That being said ... I believe dining out should be a treat and time to splurge! Though when ordering out, I personally always have to have items that are lighter and more vegetable forward as additions to my meal. A dear friend of mine in the industry still frequently pokes fun at me for ordering a side of sautéed spinach at Brooklyn Public House one night, as my main course to accompany our shared plate of chicken wings instead of a burger."

Summer Rolls

The Chef: Chef Martin Heierling, chief culinary officer at Umami Burger in Los Angeles

The Order: "I love all foods that have punch and lots of flavors. I love salads and I love soups. One of my favorite cuisines is Vietnamese, as all of my preferences are represented with lots of crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs such as basil and mint being part of the meal. I love all types of summer rolls with awesome tasty fillings and then some pho with savory spices and mung bean noodles. When I’m at work, I refuel with a meatless Impossible Burger. Over the past couple of years, I’ve switched my eating habits to mostly plant-based food at home and I noticed that the nutrition provided this way to my body is more gentle and more satisfying to me now. I have learned the difference between eating fresh tasty food only and nutritious fresh tasty food that has a positive impact on my well being yet still satisfies my taste buds."

Grits and Eggs

The Chef: James Carpenter, executive chef at Claude’s Restaurant at The Southampton Inn in Southampton, New York

The Order: "As a member of Slow Food USA’s East End chapter and the Slow Foods Chefs Alliance, I feel eating locally sourced foods is the way to go. Not only do you know where your food items come from, but you also can be assured they are safe and sustainable, and that you are supporting your local farmers and fishermen. When I eat out, it’s typically at a restaurant that is also a member of Slow Food. One of my favorite dishes is slow-cooked Anson Mills grits with poached Long Island eggs and local greens. You feel great after eating it and even better knowing you are part of a wonderful community experience."

Hearty and Vegan

The Chef: Evan Ingram, co-executive chef at Effervescence in New Orleans, Louisiana

The Order: "I like to eat vegan one day a week. This is usually something that’s almost 'accidentally' vegan — they can be hearty and indulgent, but the vegetables, nuts, avocado, legumes and grains bring so many redeeming qualities. This food is fun because the sauces, flavors and everything is made completely differently, with nut purees and flake yeast. For me as a chef, this is not only a great way to get a punch of vitamins and nutrition in a meal, but it keeps my mind open to unique preparations."

Small and Balanced

The Chef: Wendy Watson, pastry chef at Grey Ghost Detroit in Detroit, Michigan

The Order: "I'll avoid anything that is deep fried and high in carbohydrates, like bread or pasta. I look for something that has a lot of vegetables, fiber and lean protein to keep me feeling full. I also have a bad habit of eating an entire plate of food no matter what! To control my portions, I'll commit to eating half of what I think I want. I'll put my food on a small plate or order a size down from what I would normally order."

Eggs and Greens

The Chef: Cole Dickinson, executive chef at MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa in Sonoma, California

The Order: "As an avid cyclist and someone who loves a good challenge, I’m on a never-ending mission to be faster and healthier. For me, that means eating for nourishment rather than just for sustenance. When eating out, I seek out organic restaurants and try to base my meal around 'genius foods,' such as kale, avocados, olive oil, almonds, blueberries and dark chocolate. I was just in Monterey with my family and ate at The Wild Plum Café. I had delicious eggs cooked in a skillet, served on a bed of leafy greens with seasonal vegetables in olive oil."


The Chef: Scott Kampf, executive chef at Union Burger, Union Cantina and Southampton Social Club in Southampton, New York

The Order: "As chefs we tend eat somewhat unhealthy during the course of our day; tasting, perfecting, adjusting recipes for the best result. Now that we have a burger bar, I tend to eat too many burgers and too much and French fries. And I can’t forget those milkshakes. So when I eat out, I like to choose heart-healthy meals such as ratatouille, simple grilled fish or mixed green salad with lemon and extra virgin olive oil."


The Chef: JoJo Ruiz, executive chef at Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine and Serea in San Diego, California

The Order: "If a restaurant has an in-season vegetable as an appetizer, I always order it. A few of my favorites were from Jon Bautista from George’s at the Cove. One, the buffalo carrots with a sunchoke and herb-top jam, was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. I’m not a big meat-eater, so I tend to stick with crudos, raw dishes and whole fish for entrees."

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