8 Tips: Eating Healthy When Eating Out

This time of year, it’s tempting to eat at restaurants more often.   Sometimes it’s too hot to cook and others it just sounds fun to visit a new restaurant and sit outside.  It’s also the time of year many of us take vacations, and that usually means eating out much more than we would at home.  But eating out doesn’t have to mean sacrificing good food choices.  Scroll down for some tips to follow to help keep your portions right-sized and your selection nutritious.  

A healthy plate of food at a restuarant
  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.
Water glasses full of ice water
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful this time of year.  Stick to local specialties like corn on the cob, garden-grown tomatoes, and local squash for loads of flavor.  Keep your butter and dressings to a minimum to save on empty calories.

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