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Dining Out and Nutrition: Making Healthier Choices with Restaurant Menus

Updated: May 30

Have you ever tried dining out and wondered if your meal is plotting against your waistline? I’m a culinary nerd with a nutrition obsession, so I’m here to help you enjoy your restaurant favorites without needing an elastic waistband. 😂 In this blog post we're gonna explore some restaurant menus and uncover the sneaky nutrition gremlins hiding in plain sight. 🤪

The Scary Truth About Restaurant Menus in North America

Although many restaurants are mindful of offering healthy options, the menu can often be a battlefield for our health:

  1. Calorie Bombs: Some dishes are like eating an entire day’s worth of food in one go. Thanks, but no thanks.

  2. Salt Mines: Do you ever feel like you’ve just licked a salt block after a meal? That’s because restaurant dishes can be sodium nightmares, spiking your blood pressure faster than you can say “pass the water” (Allan, 2023)

  3. Sugar Overload: Desserts and drinks that could give Willy Wonka a run for his money are lurking everywhere, just waiting to overload your system with added sugars (McCammon, 2019).

  4. Fat Factories: If it’s fried, it’s probably filled with unhealthy fats that can clog your arteries faster than you can spell “cholesterol” (Rosenbloom, 2021).

Four Ways Restaurants Can Up Their Nutrition Game 🥦

Restaurants, listen up! Here’s how you can make your menus healthier without scaring away customers:

  1. Portion Control: Offering smaller portion sizes or half-portion options to help manage caloric intake.

  2. Healthy Cooking Hacks: Ditch the deep fryer and embrace grilling, baking, and steaming. Your customers’ hearts will thank you.

  3. Ingredient Swaps: Whole grains, lean proteins, and a rainbow of veggies can make your dishes pop with color and nutrition (How to Make a Healthy Stir-Fry - Unlock Food, n.d.).

  4. Menu Honesty: Make sure you offer clear nutritional info so diners can make informed choices (New Poll Shows Pandemic’s Impact on Older Adult Eating Habits, n.d.).

Healthier Remake of a Restaurant Favorite

With all of these health concerns in mind, I decided to do an experiment and try to recreate a popular dish seen in many menus across America, and recreate it using healthy alternatives. If you're thinking "thanks, but I'll take the risk", I guarantee you the flavour is my number one priority. For this experiment, I picked a classic: Chicken Alfredo Pasta from my go-to Italian joint. Here’s how I gave it a healthy makeover.

East Side Mario's menu featuring a variety of Italian-American dishes, including a Roasted Garlic Fetuccine Alfredo With Chicken.

Recipe for Healthier Chicken Alfredo Pasta


For the Whole-Grain Fettuccine:

  • Whole wheat flour: 200g

  • Eggs: 2 large

  • Olive oil: 1 tbsp

  • Salt: pinch

  • Water: as needed

For the Alfredo Sauce and Chicken:

  • Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless: 2

  • Skim milk: 250 ml

  • Low-sodium chicken broth: 250 ml

  • Olive oil: 30 ml (divided)

  • Garlic, minced: 3 cloves

  • Broccoli florets: 1 cup (150g)

  • Mushrooms, sliced: 1 cup (100g)

  • Whole-wheat flour: 15 ml

  • Grated Parmesan cheese: 60 ml (30g)

  • Salt: to taste

  • Pepper: to taste


1. Prepare the Pasta:

  • On a clean surface, mound the whole wheat flour and create a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well, add the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

  • Using a fork, gently whisk the eggs and oil, gradually incorporating the flour from the edges of the well.

  • Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, adding water if necessary. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

  • Roll out the dough to desired thickness and cut into fettuccine strips. Boil in salted water until al dente, then drain and set aside.

2. Cook the Chicken and Vegetables:

  • In a large skillet, heat 15 ml olive oil and sauté garlic until fragrant.

  • Add chicken breasts and cook until no longer pink. Remove, slice, and set aside.

  • In the same skillet, add mushrooms and broccoli, sauté until tender, then set aside with the chicken.

3. Make the Alfredo Sauce:

  • In the same skillet, heat 15 ml olive oil. Whisk in whole-wheat flour to create a roux.

  • Gradually add skim milk and low-sodium chicken broth, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.

  • Stir in grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

4. Combine:

  • Add the cooked chicken and vegetables back into the skillet with the sauce.

  • Toss with the freshly made whole-grain fettuccine and serve immediately.

Nutritional Improvements and Marketing

Changes Made:

  • Whole-Grain Fettuccine: Swapping out regular pasta for whole-grain fettuccine not only boosts the fiber content but also helps in keeping your blood sugar levels steady (Different Oat Products Elicit Different Glycemic Responses | the Whole Grains Council, n.d.)

  • Skim Milk and Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: Using skim milk instead of heavy cream and opting for low-sodium chicken broth helps to significantly cut down on the fat and salt in the dish.

  • Olive Oil: Replacing butter with olive oil is a smart choice, as it provides healthier fats that are better for your heart.

  • Extra Veggies: Adding more vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms introduces a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making the meal even more nutritious.

Nutritional Improvements:

  • Lower Calories and Unhealthy Fats: The recipe makeover results in a dish with fewer calories and less unhealthy fat, making it a lighter option that still satisfies.

  • Reduced Sodium and Sugar: By carefully selecting ingredients, the dish contains less sodium and sugar, which is great for maintaining healthy blood pressure and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

  • Increased Fiber and Essential Nutrients: The addition of whole grains and vegetables boosts the fiber content and provides essential nutrients that support overall health.

Marketing Potential:

  • Highlight Whole Grains, Lean Proteins, and Fresh Veggies: Emphasizing these ingredients can attract health-conscious diners who are looking for nutritious and delicious options.

  • Transparent Nutritional Info: Providing clear nutritional information builds trust and loyalty among customers, showing that the restaurant cares about their health and well-being.


Would most people enjoy the healthier Chicken Alfredo Pasta? I think so! It’s got the creamy goodness we love, but with a nutritious twist. The whole-grain pasta and veggies make it a winner for health buffs without sacrificing taste. 🍝


  1. Allan, S. (2023, May 29). What are Processed and Ultra-Processed Foods? Canadian Digestive Health Foundation.

  2. McCammon, E. (2019).Taming the blood sugar roller coaster - Diabetes Canada. DiabetesCanadaWebsite.

  3. Rosenbloom, C. (2021, Feb 17, ). Balance comfort food and nutrition. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

  4. New poll shows pandemic’s impact on older adult eating habits. (n.d.).

  5. How to make a healthy Stir-Fry - Unlock food. (n.d.).

  6. Different oat products elicit different glycemic responses | The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.).

  7. Unsplash. (n.d.). Beautiful free Images & Pictures | Unsplash. Unsplash.

  8. Pexels. (n.d.)

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