You Can Make Healthy Choices At Restaurants
One of the most important things you can do if you have committed to a healthy lifestyle is changing the way you eat. It’s usually easier to do that at home, but there are ways to eat away from home without sabotaging your efforts. It’s important to have a plan because “depriving” yourself of dining out and spending time with friends or celebrating special occasions can affect your success. And, you have to eat out when you travel or are invited to business meals with colleagues. Let’s talk about some healthy options.
First of all, think about why it can be unhealthy to eat out. We typically know we should avoid the foods that are deep-fried or smothered in cheese or sauces, but most of us think that a salad is a healthy option. Sometimes a salad can be the unhealthiest choice. Calories, fat and sodium sneak into many restaurant food items, including a salad.
It can be hard to know how a food was prepared when eating out. More restaurants are providing nutritional information at least, but making foods tastier typically means chefs use low-quality cooking oils, a lot of salt, and other ingredients that enhance flavor but are inexpensive. Cheese, dressings, butter, and breading are often the way to do that.
It’s possible to make healthier choices eating out though.
Here are 12 tips for how to make healthy choices at a restaurant:
1. Look up menus online before you go. You can make your choices ahead of time. More restaurants are providing nutrition information, so it’s easier these days to make good choices. Call the restaurant with questions if you have food allergies or have special dietary needs. If you know your options and what they can accommodate, you can have a much better experience.
2. Investigate which restaurants are healthier. Those that advertise better quality ingredients or that serve a variety of foods can be a better option. The more information they share is a good sign.
3. Look at how the food is prepared. Baked, braised, grilled, and steamed are typically better unless they have coated them with a lot of butter or unhealthy cooking oils beforehand. Anything deep-fried, battered, breaded or crispy are usually cooked in unhealthy fats and have a lot of calories.
4. Skip the appetizers unless there is an option made of mostly vegetables, fruit or fish. Some healthy choices are shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit or lettuce cups with vegetables. Breaded or fried appetizers are usually high in calories.
5. Choose broth-based soups rather than creamy soups like chowders or pureed soups (even if it’s a vegetable) because they often are loaded with heavy cream.
6. Limit or skip the bread. Whole-grain breads, breadsticks and crackers can be a healthy option, depending on your personal dietary needs, but muffins, garlic toast and croissants have a lot of fat and calories. If you can’t eat just a small portion, then ask the waiter to not bring the bread basket.
7. Start your meal with a salad but choose salads with lots of greens and veggies verses add-ons like cheese, croutons and bacon. Salads can add a lot of calories and be unhealthy if filled with meats, cheeses, nuts, and dressings high in fat, sodium and sugar. Chef salads and taco salads are examples. Ask for dressing on the side and dip each piece into the dressing before eating or just drizzle a little on top.
8. Choose healthy side dishes. Steamed vegetables, a small baked potato or even boiled potatoes can be good choices. Rice and fresh fruit are next best. High calorie options often made with unhealthy oils are French fries, potato chips, and salads made with dressings like potato salad.
9. Skip dishes with cream sauces. Fettuccine Alfredo, for instance, is a loaded with calories. Half a portion of tomato-based pasta dishes can be a good option, however, especially if it includes vegetables in the dish. Names of entrees like veal “parmigiana,” “stuffed” shrimp, and “fried” chicken tell you they are high in fat. Look for names like “baked,” “broiled,” “roasted,” or “steamed.”
10. You may not want dessert if you wait to decide until after you have finished your meal. But, if you are having dessert, choose healthier options like fresh fruit or sorbet. And, you may even split a dessert with a companion.
11. Consider volume and avoid ordering more than you need. Practice mindful eating. You don’t have to eat everything on your plate. Your health is more valuable than the food you don’t eat. You can even ask for a “to-go” box when your order, so that you can put half of your meal in the box to take home before you even start to eat the other half. Or, “share” a meal with a companion.
12. Drinks, alcohol or sugary, can add a lot of calories. Choose wisely. Avoid sodas and sugary mixers and cocktails. Water is your best choice.
Eating out can be challenging but preparing ahead of time and making smart choices can really help. Dining out should be fun and can fit into a healthy diet if you don’t out often and eat a healthy diet at home. Bon Appetit!
1.The Mayo Clinic. “Making healthy choices at any restaurant.” Retrieved from
2.Prevention Magazine. “The 10 unhealthiest salads you can order.” Retrieved from
3.Dr. Axe, Food and Medicne. “15 Rules for how to eat out healthy.” Retrieved from
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease