Welcome to the Cheat Sheet

Your guide to eating healthier at Philly's best restaurants

Philadelphia has one of the best dining scenes in the country. Our city is a foodie’s playground, with everything from celebrity-chef-helmed, four-star eateries to cheesesteak-hawking greasy spoons.

Guess what? You don’t have to ruin your healthy eating goals to enjoy it.

Over the next few months I’ll offer you healthy menu options at some of Philly’s finest restaurants. A bit about me: I’m a registered dietician headquartered right here in Center City. I also have a culinary arts degree—I put it to good use with my meal-delivery service and Healthy Bites Market and Cafe in Graduate Hospital—which means I know my stuff when it comes to delicious food.

Here on Be Well Philly, I’ll be applying my smarts as a dietician to review menus at some of your favorite local restaurants. I’ll help you decide what to order—and how much to eat—to make dining out and staying healthy a cinch. Consider it your cheat sheet.

Before we get to the menus, here are a few general how-to tips for eating out in a healthy way.

• Sharing dishes is a great way to explore multiple flavors and save some calories. Order a few appetizers and one entrée and split them all. Your portions will be more appropriate and you get to enjoy the variety of flavors a restaurant offers.

• Opt for small plates or tapas. Having several small plates is a more exciting way to dine, and your portion sizes will be in check.

• Skip the bread or boring starches. Opt to share a dessert or get another glass of wine instead of overdoing it with bread or starchy sides like potatoes. Extra veggies are a must. At the end of the day, it’s about total calories consumed, so choose wisely.

• Make substitutions or omit high-fat ingredients. You can always request the sauce or dressing on the side or to omit the cheese or bacon from a salad.

• Get moving! The best way to dine out with no guilt is to eat well on a regular basis and exercise to compensate for extra calories consumed.

• Think of your plate—an appetizer-size one is the appropriate size—as a puzzle, one that you can construct to reflect healthier eating habits. Half should be veggies and fruit (preferably not saturated in butter or cream), a quarter should be a lean protein (about four to six ounces) and the remaining quarter should be a healthy starch like a whole grain or sweet potato.

Got it? Next week we’ll get into specific menu reviews, but keep this guide close at hand for a quick reference. And if you have any restaurants you’d like to see featured in this column, by all means tell us in the comments.