7 Tips: How to eat healthy when eating out

Posted on October 21, 2016 at 12:15 AM by Jump IN for Healthy Kids

Whether you’re traveling, pressed for time, or simply don’t want to cook at home, dining out is part of American culture. But how can you make healthy choices when faced with supersized restaurant portions of foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar? 

Plate with grilled chicken, mixed vegetables, and kale salad with fruit

Never fear. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to completely give up dining out. Here are 7 tips for how to eat healthy when eating out:

  1. Ask your server for a to-go box as soon as your meal arrives, and place half of your meal inside it. You’ll eat more realistic portions and have lunch for tomorrow, too! Plus, if you’ve already boxed it up, you’ll resist the temptation to keep nibbling after you’re full. Not a fan of leftovers? Split your entrée with someone else at the table.

  2. Pass on the free beverage refills. If you choose a soda or other sugary beverage, limit yourself to one glass. If you need more to drink, ask for water for the remainder of the meal. You’ll avoid up to 200 empty calories each time you pass on the refill.
    Two water glasses on restaurant table
  3. Choose red sauces or broth-based sauces over creamy ones, and broth-based soups rather than cream-based ones. This will cut calories and saturated fats.

  4. Look for words like garden fresh, steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, poached, lightly sautéed or stir-fried. Avoid items described as breaded, fried, crispy, battered or au gratin. “Smothered” is also a red flag, as it usually means covered in excess cheese or heavy cream sauce.

  5. Ask for grilled chicken on sandwiches, salads or wraps, rather than fried chicken. Ask even if it isn’t explicitly stated as a choice in the menu description. This is often an easy, no-cost or low-cost swap.

  6. Ask for dressings and condiments on the side so you can control the amount that goes on your salad, sandwich, baked potato, and other foods.

  7. If ordering a breakfast sandwich, ask for it on an English muffin rather than a bagel. The portion size will likely be significantly smaller, since the average bagel has more than doubled in size and calories in the past 20 years.

Are appetizers and dessert your favorite part of dining out? You can use these same tips to make smarter choices: avoid fried appetizers, for example, or simply ask for a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert.

Healthy Fast Foods, Too

You can even make healthy choices at fast food restaurants. Find resources like "Healthy Fast Foods" and more in our robust Resource Hub.Healthy Fast Foods guide preview

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Topics: healthy eating

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