When it comes to foods for hormone balance and weight loss, we all know that we should be prepping our own meals.
But let’s face it: you don’t always have time to cook meals from scratch.
In fact, you probably end up grabbing takeout on your way home from work most days of the week.
But given that a lot of restaurant food isn’t always healthy, how do you eat out without sabotaging your weight and your hormones?
Well, that is what I am going to answer in this post my friend!
I am going to share the top restaurant ingredients to avoid, as well as the restaurants where it’s safer to grab foods for hormone balance and weight loss!
FOODS FOR HORMONE BALANCE: INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
There is no avoiding it: restaurants are a staple in the modern world.
And for those days when you can’t cook your own foods for hormone balance or for weight loss, restaurants are a great convenience!
But here’s the thing: weight loss depends a lot on hormone health. And hormone health is greatly affected by your weight!
Yep, weight loss and hormone health are inextricably linked 🙂
So, before your next trip to your local eatery, be aware of these common ingredients that you should avoid.
1. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
This is a very sneaky food additive that makes food taste more appealing.
Unfortunately, MSG also acts on our brain and gut hormones!
You see, MSG raises dopamine (the pleasure/reward hormone) which makes you craaaaaave more food.
The increased dopamine also interferes with your body’s ability to respond to leptin.
This is very significant because leptin is a hormone that tells your brain that it is time to STOP EATING.
Guess what happens when you body doesn’t respond to leptin? You keep on eating!!
To learn more about how bad MSG is for hormone health, check out this article I wrote on this important topic.
For now though, just know that MSG increases cravings and unfortunately, it won’t make you crave kale or strawberries!
2. Pesticides and Herbicides
Fruits and veggies are some of the most potent foods for hormone balance that you can get your hand on.
However, if they are conventionally grown, that means they are loaded with pesticides and herbicides.
This is problematic for one simply reason: pesticides and herbicides are estrogen-based.
This means that pesticides and herbicides are hormone disruptors that interfere with the function of your natural estrogen. In the long-term, this can lead to estrogen dominance symptoms and unexplained weight gain.
Even though these chemicals are sprayed on the exterior of food, they can still get into the food.
This means washing food prior to cooking doesn’t remove all traces of pesticides and herbicides.
Another big concern when it comes to pesticides and herbicides is that they can contribute to excess testosterone.
- The female body is naturally designed to make androgens (i.e male hormones like testosterone, DHEA, DHEAS and so on).
- Normally an enzyme called aromatase converts most of those androgens to estrogen.
However, when we eat food that has been sprayed with pesticides, something else happens.
The pesticides block aromatase, and in the end, those androgens are not converted to estrogen.
This means that as a woman you can end up with unnaturally high levels of male hormones in your body.
This is particularly concerning, especially for women who have PCOS symptoms like facial hair growth or deepening of the voice.
Most restaurants use meats that contain antibiotics and growth hormones.
The animal products served in most restaurants are some of the worst foods for hormone balance that you can get your hands on.
A lot of that is due to the fact that most animals are given antibiotics.
When we eat food that comes from those animals, then we also ingest antibiotics.
Daily consumption of antibiotics results in an imbalance of our gut bacteria and also contributes to leaky gut syndrome.
Because the gut makes various hormones that affect our mood, immune system and more, it’s best to avoid food that contains antibiotics.
4. Growth Hormones
Growth hormones, such as Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH), are commonly given to cows so that they can grow bigger and produce more meat.
Unfortunately, that hormone is also transferred to us when we eat steak or drink milk from those cow.
This is problematic for two reasons.
First, we are taking in a synthetic hormone that was manufactured for a cow, not a human.
That definitely confuses your endocrine system!
Second, growth hormones make things grow. That means we end up with a waistline that grows.
Or tumors that grow.
Or cysts that grow!
So when it comes to foods for hormone balance, be mindful of the quality of your animal products.
So what’s all the fuss about gluten when it comes to hormone imbalance?
Well, just like antibiotics, gluten causes leaky gut syndrome, which makes it difficult for your body to regulate your hormones.
Is this to say that things like bread or pastries are the worst foods for hormone balance?
The thing that makes gluten a problem is that restaurants have to make bread very fast!
That’s not normal.
You see, 100 years ago, bread was made in 24 hours.
During most of those 24 hours the yeast in the bread dough was working hard, breaking down the gluten (so that our guts didn’t have to).
Essentially, the yeast was pre-digesting the gluten.
Fast forward to today when commercial bread can be made in 3 or 4 hours.
We basically end up with bread that contains a lot of “undigested” gluten and that takes a serious toll on the gut.
AND your hormones.
6. Canola Oil
Canola oil is touted as an all-natural.
The reality, is that canola oil is an industrial oil that is far from safe.
In fact, canola isn’t even a plant!
It’s an acronym for Canadian Oil, an industrial oil that was first produced in the 70s.
Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant and it is a highly processed, trans fat that basically acts like a toxin in the body.
The thing with toxins is this: they create inflammation in the body and that inflammation eventually contributes to hormone imbalance.
I have more information about the dangers of canola oil here, but for now just know that it’s frequently used in restaurants and is best avoided.
7. Natural Flavors
Although the term “natural” is frequently used in many restaurants, it is unregulated by the FDA.
This means that something can be labeled as “natural” even when it is loaded with artificial compounds.
And that tends to be the case with the term “natural flavors,” which can mask hormone disruptors like MSG or even, aspartame.
8. High Fructose Corn Syrup
This popular sweetener is made from genetically modified corn and that’s problematic because animal studies link genetically modified food to fertility problems.
In addition, high fructose corn syrup creates massive spikes in our insulin levels.
Insulin is basically our fat storage hormone and the more insulin increases, the more it drives the body to store fat.
Alright, so now that you know the top restaurant ingredients to avoid, let’s take a look at the places that are safe for you to eat.
FOODS FOR HORMONE BALANCE & WEIGHT LOSS: 9 HEALTHY RESTAURANTS FOR EATING OUT
You might be surprised by some of the restaurants that provide foods for hormone balance!
Before we dive into the list of restaurants that provide healthy foods for hormone balance, please note that:
- My goal is to give you convenient options. That’s why this list contains chains/franchises that are in various parts of the country.
- I evaluated each restaurant based on the information that is publicly available on their website. It’s possible that your specific location might have different information and menu items.
- None of these restaurants is perfect. They each have their pluses and minuses. But again, for those days when you need the convenience of a restaurant, they do a good job!
- Please don’t stress out about avoiding “bad” food 100% of the time. Just reduce your exposure to unhealthy ingredients and include a healthy balance of foods for hormone balance in your daily diet. Progress, not perfection 🙂
1. Native Foods
- Menu is entirely plant-based, which reduces exposure to the toxins in animal products (such as parasites, antibiotics and growth hormones).
- They use plant-based cheese made from nuts and nutritional yeast. They also use vegan cheese from Follow Your Heart (which contains ingredients like coconut oil).
- In addition to the main menu, there is a seasonal menu.
- They use only organic, non-GMO soybeans and corn! For everything else, they try to be organic whenever possible.
- Gluten-free options are available.
- Even though there are some gluten-free options on the menu, this is not a gluten-free restaurant. So, just be aware of this when ordering.
Photo credit: David Sundberg / Esto
- Meats that are antibiotic-free and hormone-free!
- The meats come from animals that are given vegetarian feed.
- The soy and corn used are non-GMO, which is great news given that most of the soy and corn on the market is actually genetically modified.
- There is some canola oil in items like the tortillas.
- Even though the meats used are free of hormones and antibiotics, the animals that produced those meats are likely given genetically modified feed.
- Wheat is still used in some wraps, so keep that in mind.
- It’s all about hearty, filling salads that won’t leave you feeling hungry minutes after you’ve had it.
- Ingredients are locally sourced, which generally means better quality (i.e. less pesticides, for example).
- They use the FreeBird brand of chicken, which is free of hormones and free of antibiotics.
- You can create your own bowl by mixing and matching grains, fruits, nuts and various veggies to satisfy your taste buds!
- Some menu items specify that they use hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken. Other menu items don’t. So be cautious and stick to the items that actually indicate that clean chicken is used.
- No indication as to whether their cheeses come from grass-fed, chemical-free cows.
4. Panera Bread
- No artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or trans fats (hydrogenated oils).
- No shellfish used.
- As of 2017:
- all beef is grass fed, grass finished and free range.
- 100% of chicken and turkey is antibiotic-free.
- All bacon, sausage and breakfast sausage is antibiotic-free.
- 14% of eggs are cage-free
- 90% of their total pork supply is antibiotic-free
- Some gluten-free options available.
- Vegan options available on request.
- No mention of meats being hormone-free.
- Since there is no clear statement about milk and cheese, it’s safe to assume that they are neither hormone-free nor antibiotic-free.
- Unlike most of the pork used at Panera, the pork used in their salami is not antibiotic-free.
- There is a fair amount of soybean oil and soy in some dishes. Because this is unfermented soy, it’s best not to overdo it when ordering from the menu.
- Some oatmeal breakfast bowls contain canola, corn syrup and citric acid (food preservative). Not the best combo for your hormones!
5. Zoe’s Kitchen
- The menu is Mediterranean-inspired, which means hummus, falafel, olives and other good-for-your foods!
- A variety of healthy sides that you can mix and match to create your own healthy plate of foods for hormone balance.
- Healthy grains like quinoa are on the menu, as well as plant proteins like lentils and chickpeas (in the form of hummus).
- No organic, hormone-free or antibiotic-free meats.
- Tzatziki sauce and pita bread are included with a lot of menu items. Would have been nice to have organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free yogurt in the tzatziki. Also, having a gluten-free bread option would be helpful
6. Lyfe Kitchen
- Chicken is antibiotic-free and the beef is grass-fed.
- Locally-sourced, organic greens are used whenever possible.
- No statement about additives, preservatives, dyes or flavorings, which means they are most likely used.
- They indicate that they use sustainably farmed salmon. There’s no clear explanation of what “sustainable” means when it comes to our health though.
7. Veggie Grill
- It’s all about veggies, fruits, nuts and grains.
- No meats which means less risk of being exposed to growth hormones and antibiotics.
- A variety of healthy grains, like quinoa.
- Organic ingredients would be a huge plus.
- Food is sourced from local farms, which usually means less toxins (compared to large, commercial farms).
- Organic eggs.
- Meats come from animals that have been raised humanely, using the GAP (Global Animal Partnership) standard.
- Flexible menu that allows you to order à la carte or build your own dish from scratch.
- No official statement about preservatives, dyes and other toxins. Difficult to know which items may or may not contain them.
9. Tender Greens
- Clean meats and fish, such as hormone-free and antibiotic-free steak, as well as sustainable salmon and tuna.
- Flexible menu that allows you to build your own plate.
- Terms like “sustainable” can vary from one company to another. Having more clarification on what that means in the case of Tender Greens will be helpful.
There you have it! My list of 9 restaurants where you can grab a meal without freaking out (a lot) about your health!
I hope this was helpful and that it makes things easier for you next time you eat out.
Did I miss any of your favorite healthy restaurants? If I did, leave a comment with your recommendations. I always love learning from your experiences!