6 Tips for Healthy Dining Out
Eating out can be a challenge when you’re trying to stick to a healthy meal plan. These six tips for healthy restaurant dining can help you feel good about the choices you make—and avoid hidden calories and other pitfalls.
1. Know before you go
You can find healthier choices at almost all restaurants. Do your research ahead of time. Review an establishment’s menu online before heading out—many restaurants post nutritional information along with descriptions of their dishes. Consider what you’ll order, and be prepared to request substitutions where necessary.
2. Read the menu carefully
The way menu items are described can give you clues into how they’re prepared. For healthier choices, stick with “grilled,” “broiled” or “steamed” and steer clear of heavier dishes with words like “fried,” “breaded” and “smothered.”
3. Don’t ask for half portions
Some people like to split a plate with a friend as a way to keep portion sizes down. The problem with this is that since some restaurant portion sizes are very large, half a plate may still be too much.
4. Focus on what you can eat—not what you can’t
It can be easy to focus on all the things you can’t eat, which can be frustrating and make you feel deprived. Instead, try figuring out what you can add to your meal. For example, consider whole grain breads and pastas; healthier fats like olive oil, avocados and nuts; fruits and vegetables; and lean proteins like turkey, chicken or fish.
5. Have a snack before you go
To avoid attacking the bread basket with abandon, try having a small, healthy snack before you leave for dinner. When you arrive, ask your server to hold the bread, and opt for a small salad or cup of broth-based soup to hold you over until your main dish arrives.
6. Ask your server for suggestions
Don’t be afraid to ask your server for suggestions. Tell your server you’re on a healthy meal plan, and ask how dishes are prepared. Ask if you can substitute veggies or a salad for fries, request salad dressing on the side, or order an appetizer-size of a main dish. Many restaurants are happy to accommodate special requests.