Healthy Outside the Home: Moonstruck Diner

Moonstruck Diner (Madison)Having lots to celebrate this week, two of my coworkers/friends (who were both recently promoted) and I (who will be working for a new boss as of February 1st) went out to lunch yesterday as a way of patting ourselves, and each other, on the back.  After a bit of deliberation in the lobby of our office building (it was too cold to walk out with a set plan), we decided to go to Moonstruck, a diner that’s right down the street.  Obviously diners are not necessarily the healthiest places on the planet, but to their credit, they always have a pretty wide variety of foods so they can appeal to a pretty broad range of tastes and preferences.  A lighter meal, while it may not be what the diner is known for, is thus not impossible to find.  (What’s funny in the case of Moonstruck is that if you look at their online menu, they have a whole “Dieter’s Delight” section.  I didn’t see it on the menu at the restaurant, and I don’t think I would have changed my order even if I had.  Although I have to say, “Individual Can of Fish on Bed of Lettuce & Tomato” does sound extremely tempting).

The menu at Moonstruck is several pretty packed pages long.  There are breakfast-all-day options, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, salads, soups, appetizers, desserts, and everything in between (is there anything in between?).  Their vegetarian selection is pretty good.  Standard, in terms of diner fare, but then again, it’s a diner so it makes sense.  After considering a few options, I ordered the avocado salad, which, in addition to containing a generous amount of avocado, contained gorgonzola and a lot of other stuff that I can’t remember.  It also came with a toasted pita, which I thought was a nice touch.  Another plus: your salad dressing comes on the side automatically, so it’s not a problem if you forget to ask!  I was pretty happy with my selection.  The veggies seemed fresh and I was pleased to have some grains to go with my meal and make it more balanced.

Sometimes going to a restaurant you’ve never been to before can be a bit anxiety-producing.  You want to be sure there will be something you want to eat, whether you like to eat healthy, have special dietary needs, or are just a picky eater.  Additionally, there are a lot of unknowns to deal with: how fresh will the ingredients be? what will the portion sizes be like? if I order a side of veggies, will they be dripping in oil or butter?  I thought I’d share some of ways I deal with these worries.

  • If you know where you’re going ahead of time, try to find a menu online so that you can scope out the selections.
  • Once you get to the restaurant, see if you can sneak a peek at what other people are eating.  Don’t gawk, obviously, but just glance around as you’re being led to your table, or maybe quickly check out what the people at the table next to you are having.  This won’t tell you anything about the way the food is cooked, necessarily, but you will be able to see how big the portions are, and whether the food looks fresh.
  • If the portions are big, remember that you can always ask for a half portion, or just put half of your meal away before you start eating so that you can have it later.
  • If you’re curious about the way something is cooked, ask your server about it.  He or she may not have the answer immediately, but they can definitely ask someone in the kitchen.
  • Try to find something that will give you a good balance of foods–some vegetables or fruit, grains, protein, and healthy fats.  Even if you don’t end up with the healthiest thing on the menu, you will at least be getting a meal that is rich in nutrients.
  • Keep in mind that you’re always free to indulge!  I don’t eat out that much and so when I do, I always remind myself that I don’t have to order a healthy meal if I don’t want to.  If I want French fries, that’s what I’ll get.  After all, balance is important in all things!

A couple days ago, while thinking about the fact that I hadn’t done a Healthy Outside the Home post in some time (not since my first and most recent one, that is), I realized that it would be cool to get some different perspectives (and highlight restaurants in cities other than New York).  So!  If you’d like to submit a post for Healthy Outside the Home, please let me know so we can set something up.

Other stuff! Yesterday, for the sake of accountability, I said I was going to post a running schedule today.  Well here it is.  Sort of, anyway.  After lots and lots of searching, I’ve finally found something that approximates an I’m-not-training-for-a-race-but-I-still-want-a-training-plan plan.  Sure, it’s not Spring, but who cares?  I don’t mind living on the edge.  Anyway, my plan is to finish up January by doing the first weeks of this plan without the hills or speed work, just focusing on building a mileage base.  Then add those elements in, once I’ve regained some of the fitness I’ve undoubtedly lost on account of my inconsistency lately.




  1. Eating outside of the home, when I am actually conscious of what I eat is anxiety producing. Your tips are so helpful.

    I know a lot of people suggest asking for things to be prepared certain ways or asking for the box up front, but I always feel embarrassed to ask.

    Do you feel embarrassed to ask for a box at the beginning of the meal? The first time I did it the waitress asked if there was something wrong with the meal and now I am always afraid to ask.

    1. I do sometimes feel awkward asking for a box for the food right off the bat. I had a weird experience with a server when I asked once, too. If I’m feeling less anxious, I’ll ask. Otherwise, I’ll just commit to eating half my portion, or get something like a salad and soup where I know the portions will be reasonable enough that I won’t be stuffed if I do finish.

  2. And the converse to “have fries if you want them,” is “just because something comes with fries doesn’t mean you have to eat them.” I had the same situation today where I went to lunch somewhere I’d never been. This place didn’t really have healthy options, but I got a chicken breast sandwich (with cheese!). Came with fries. I love (good) fries. I had a few of these, and they weren’t great. So instead of just munching on them mindlessly, I made the conscious decision that I would enjoy the sandwich and ignore the fries.

    1. That’s a really good point! Realizing that was like a revelation to me. If you don’t want part of your meal, don’t eat it! Especially if you don’t like the way it tastes! Thanks for adding that tip 🙂

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