Don't Ruin Your Meal: The Best and Worst Restaurant Sauces

All it takes is the wrong sauce to change your meal from healthy to not-so-much. STACK Expert Kait Fortunato recommends better options in various restaurant settings.

Healthy Sauces

You can ruin a relatively healthy restaurant meal in seconds. All you have to do is pour on the wrong sauce. It's a simple but costly mistake because heavy cream sauces and dips can add fat and calories quickly.

Here is a list of healthy restaurant sauces and a few to steer clear of next time you're dining out.


Cheese sauces and sour cream from Mexican restaurants are high in saturated fats, sodium and calories. Instead, choose guacamole or bean dips. Although they are still high in calories and fat, they are better options.

Avocado, the main ingredient in guacamole, is high in omega 3 fats, which can help lower cholesterol. As long as you control portion size, these are considered good fats. Black bean dip is another nice alternative that is full of fiber and protein. (Love Chiptole? Learn how to Build a Healthier Chipotle Meal.)


To help cut back on saturated fats, choose a sauce that is tomato-based over a creamy white or butter sauce. This should be used with chicken, fish and eggplant dishes as well as pasta.

Also if you like bread with your dinner, try dipping it in olive oil instead of butter. (Wondering what to choose? See Healthy Choices at Italian Restaurants.)


Normally, a yogurt-based tzatziki dressing would be a great option. However, ask how it is made because some restaurants use high-fat yogurt or sour cream.

The safest bet is to use hummus as a dip or dressing because of its high fiber and protein. Try this healthy tzatziki recipe at home.  (See also Mediterranean-Style Diet: A Heart-Healthy Way for Athletes to Eat.)

American-Style Bars or Grills

Greasy sandwiches, burgers and fries are common fare at these types of establishments. But you can still make some solid nutritional choices.

Healthy sandwich toppings include spicy mustard or avocado. Their intense flavor helps with portion control and makes the meal taste better. For salads, use olive oil & balsamic vinegar instead of creamy dressings like French or Ranch. Try making your own dressing like this one with lemon juice and fresh herbs.


With a protein- and veggie-packed stir-fry,? Be careful what sauce you choose. Options such as teriyaki and sweet & sour can be high in sugar and salt. Add fresh herbs or low sodium soy sauce instead, and get the flavor you are going for. (See also How to Eat Healthy at a Chinese Restaurant (Dining In or Taking Out).)

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