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Dining Out on a Diet

Maybe it’s date night or your anniversary or you just didn’t feel like cooking. Whatever the reason, you’re heading out to a restaurant. But now that you’ve figured out where to eat, the next question is, how to eat to maintain your heart healthy diet. So, we’ve compiled this list of helpful tips that will help you stick to your diet plan no matter where you eat.

The basics
If you know you’re going to a restaurant, try cutting back on the amount of sodium you eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks to help counterbalance any additional salt in the meal out. The next tip seems easy, but can be tough in practice: avoid the buffet line. Instead, order off the menu to help control portions and those oh-so-tempting add-ons. And finally, don’t be afraid to let your server know about your diet and ask about healthy options on the menu.

Main courses
This may be your biggest decision of the night, so make sure it’s a good one. Start by looking for menu options that include terms like “grilled,” “steamed,” or “baked.” Next, choose a lighter main dish; chicken and seafood tend to fit the bill. Remember, always remove the skin which is high in sodium and high in fat. And, of course, be wary of sauces and toppings. If you absolutely must have them, ask for them on the side so you can control the amounts yourself.

Sandwiches bring their own challenges. If you’re having a burger, order it plain and add your own condiments, like mustard and low-fat mayo (avoid the full-fat stuff). Chicken sandwiches are best when grilled rather than breaded. Tuna and chicken salad sandwiches should generally be avoided because of the mayo involved, which usually isn’t the reduced fat kind.

No matter how healthy your order, an ill-advised side dish can ruin your meal’s diet plan. Green veggies or side salads are usually good options, but be aware of extra ingredients and excessive dressings, or order them on the side. Try to avoid starchy or fried sides like French fries, opting instead for a baked potato, perhaps (and don’t forget the low-fat sour cream).

The most basic solution here is obvious: choose water. But that doesn’t always pair with the rest of your order, so if you’re choosing to add a beverage, stick to 100% fruit juices or unsweetened iced tea. You can tack on a soda if you’ve been craving one, but try to make sure it’s sugar-free and try to get the smallest size.

After your meal, satisfy your sweet tooth with a sorbet or a frozen yogurt instead of baked goods. Fruit is another good alternative, so long as you’re avoiding added sugars or other toppings.