Healthy Menu Navigator: French

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What should you steer clear of besides the baguette? Nutritionist Heather Bauer explains how to order healthy dishes off any French restaurant menu.

Moules in white wine (Photo:
Mussles in white wine sauce are a good choice, Bauer says. (Photo:


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we're eating well while eating out, when we're not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalEnter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last week, it was tapas. This week, French food! Bon appétit, everyone.

Heather Bauer's French menu navigational nugget

Good news, Francophiles! Though it may seem like French cuisine is rich and buttery, Bauer is actually a big fan. "There are always great choices when you're having French," she says. "Mussels,'ll also see a bunch of different starter salads, roasted chicken, and plain steaks. It's easy!"

And you don't have to pass on dessert. Order sorbet or berries, or share a crème brûlée—just hold off until everyone else has taken a bite so you don't overdo it.



1. Arugula and shaved Parmesan salad, or a mixed salad with goat cheese—healthy greens with just a bit of cheesy goodness!

2. Oysters on the half shell, tuna tartare, or shrimp cocktail. French bistros often have so many fresh fish starters, it can feel like you're at a raw bar—and that's a good thing. In fact, Bauer likes to order a salad, a fish-based app, and a side or two of steamed or sautéed vegetables for a complete meal.

3. French onion soup—but only if you're not salt sensitive. And hold the bread and cheese!


1. Grilled fish and veggies. Clean, simple, delicious! (See note below about Beurre blanc.)

2. Steak and a salad. (Sorry, no frites!)

3. Moules (AKA delicious, aromatic mussels) in a white wine or garlic broth. But again, pass on the frites and ask for a salad.


1. The cheese plate. Remember, when it comes to fromage, a serving the size of your thumb is roughly 100 calories, Bauer warns.

2. Beurre blanc—a French staple that's basically butter sauce and is added to a lot of fish entrées. Ask for it on the side, Bauer says.

3. Steak frites. But you probably already knew that, didn't you?

4. French bread—with so many yummy, good-for-you choices on the menu, there's no need to fill up on empty carbs.

Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer's spilling her secrets to ordering pizza. Or check out last week's guide to ordering healthy tapas.


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