By Meredith Mann

Dining out doesn’t mean you have to forget your healthy eating or “fall off the wagon” every time. Here are some yummy, balanced meals I regularly order when eating out in Vestavia Hills that won’t make you feel like you’re on a diet.

Restaurant Tip: Always ask questions. If you’re unsure how a dish is prepared, ask. You may feel annoying, but the wait staff is there to help you!

31 Area

Baumhower’s Victory Grille

If craving a burger, I go for the All-American Burger and always choose between the bun or fries. Our bodies can only store a certain amount of carbohydrates at a time, so I try to keep these at 1 serving per meal. The Char-grilled House Salad with any of the protein options is a great choice too.

Dressing Tip: Always get dressings on the side. Skip the fat free because of all the unnecessary added sugar and pass on the white heavier dressings because of unhealthy fats. I’d go for a vinegar-based one.

Zoe’s Kitchen

Here, the Cauliflower Rice Bowl with chicken or salmon is my favorite. It has the perfect amount of protein, healthy fats, and fiber to be a complete meal and always hits the spot with their house made tzatziki sauce, fresh cucumber, and dill.

First Watch

Omelet lover here, and the Morning Market Veg is my go-to. Honestly though, none of them ever disappoint. I double the salad greens and skip the toast.

Breakfast Tip: You may think its “lighter” to get oatmeal, granola, or a superfoods bowl, but these lack protein and have an abundance of carbohydrates, which leaves us with a sugar crash and zero energy shortly after. If you are craving something like this, I’d add a side of eggs or sausage to make it more of a balanced meal.

Rocky Ridge

El Pablano

My favorite here is the “off menu” Chicken Fajitas and Veggies over the House Salad. It’s just perfect after chips and their famous salsa. My husband actually made up this order and I’ve been getting it ever since.

Cajun Seafood House

The taste of Louisiana right on Rocky Ridge. Y’all, this place is a hidden gem and so yummy. I always go the grilled, boiled or blackened route with seafood and get a side of veggies. You can’t go wrong with fresh seafood delivered from the Gulf especially in their Seafood Low Boil platter. Oh, and their gumbo is amazing too.

The Ridge Eat and Drink

There’s so many tasty options here but my three favorites are the new Flank Steak Salad with goat cheese, the Mexicali Turkey Burger, and the Grilled Tuna Steak with grilled veggies and a side salad.

Nutrition Tip: Sweet potato fries aren’t necessarily healthier than regular white potato fries, unless you’re trying to get in more vitamin A. Enjoy the fries you love in moderation.

Cahaba Heights

Ashley Macs

I’m for the Salad Trio all the way. My usual is double Chicken Salad and the Baby Bleu Salad. If needing to satisfy your sweet tooth, I love their mini cupcakes—perfect portion control and always delish!

Nutrition Tip: Protein takes the longest for our bodies to break down during digestion and is vital in keeping us full and satiated for hours. So, always choose a protein first, and build your meal from there.

Olive Branch

Here, the entrees come in a glass pyrex dish as your plate, so count me in! All protein options are great but my go-to is the Lamb Kabob Entrée with hummus, grilled veggies, rice and a Greek salad. Usually I swap out rice for double Greek salad. It’s so much food and so good.

Nutrition Tip: Lamb is high in vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and B12. And bonus, it’s easier to digest than beef.


If you are not wanting pizza, I go for the Fire Baked Wings and a side salad. If you are going the pizza route, Very Veggie and Basic Pesto are my picks. I always enjoy a couple slices and order a side Iceberg Wedge for some extra fiber.

Pizza Tip: Cauliflower crust in not necessarily a healthier option. It tends to have the same amount of carbohydrates per serving. So, unless you need to be gluten free, I’d go for a regular crust and enjoy.

Liberty Park

On Tap Sports Cafe

I love a big bowl of their Irish Stew, loaded with protein and veggies, it’s a complete meal. Or if I’m craving a burger, I go with their Classic Burger and always choose to enjoy either bun or fries to keep it balanced and feel great.

Your Pie

When it comes to pizza, I say enjoy your favorite toppings but try to get a veggie/meat combo instead of a “meat lovers” to cut down on so much fat and grease. Choosing thin crust is always the lighter option too. My go-to here is the Ischia Pizza and a side salad for added fiber and nutrients.

Big Sky Bakery

I always try to swing by and get a loaf of 100 percent Whole Grain 3 Seed Bread to take home and maybe a Chocolate Chip Cookie. These are a “worth it” indulgence for me. Oh, and I recommend microwaving the cookies 15-20 seconds… if you can wait till you get home.

Menu Keywords 

Words to look for:              Words to avoid:

Grilled                                         Alfredo

Steamed                                     Breaded

Baked                                          Cream

Roasted                                       Dipped

Braised                                        Crispy

Broiled                                         Pan-fried

Seared                                          Scalloped

Building a Balanced Meal

The body is designed to function optimally when it receives a mix of these three essential macronutrients.

  • Protein, the most important nutrient, is vital in nourishing our bodies is the building block for every cell in our body. The magic number of it to feel full and satisfied is 20 grams (women) and 30 grams (men).
  • Veggies give us for fiber to help with gut health, digestion, energy, vitamins and nutrients. These are more volume-signaling and allow us to feel naturally satisfied by the physical stretching of the lining of our stomach.
  • Fat is essential in helping our body absorb certain nutrients and for cell development/growth/brain function, and it also produces important hormones.
  • What’s not on the list? Think of starches as optional +1 for meals and limit them to one serving per meal.