Healthy Tips for Eating Out

Server with plates of food

In this fast-paced world, convenient food surrounds us at every corner. It may be quick and easy, but it can also be a huge nutritional trap where unhealthy choices abound.


Restaurants are notorious for adding lots of fat, salt, and sugar to make foods taste better and keep you wanting more. They also tend to have outrageously large portions, with one plate often hosting enough food for 2-3 people! So when bad choices surround you, how can you eat healthy?


How to Make Healthy Choices When Eating Out


1) Plan Ahead


Take the opportunity to decide in advance where you may be going. This gives you the opportunity to look over the menu to see if there are healthy options. Many places also offer nutrition data either in the restaurant or online, so then you can see for sure what you are getting. There are also helpful websites such as that suggest healthier picks at many restaurants in your area.


2) Scan the Menu for "Danger" Words


Look for words like fried, breaded, creamy, or crispy, as these usually mean the meal is high in fat and calories. Instead, pick foods that are steamed, grilled, or baked, and ask for items to be made with "no added salt" to reduce the sodium.


3) Shape Your Plate


Veggies, salad, and/or fruit should make up at least half your meal, but can often be the hardest foods to find at restaurants. Pick an entrée that includes lots of veggies (such as stir-fry) or order a side-salad or vegetable side dish. The remainder of your plate should consist of approximately 1/4 protein like meat or fish, and 1/4 grains or starches like breads, potatoes, pastas, rice, tortillas.


4) Mind Your Portions


Put half the meal immediately into a take-out container. Then you have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch! Remember vegetables you can eat in abundance, but the meat should be about deck of cards-sized, and the starches should be about fist-sized or less.


5) Watch the Extras


Sauces, soups, dressings, and gravies can be huge calorie and sodium pitfalls. Ask for these foods on the side so you can control the amount. Avoid cream-based soups and go for lower-sodium broth-based soups if they are an option.


6) Don't Forget the Beverages


Alcohol can add a significant amount of calories to your meal as well as trigger poor food choices. Regular soda can be a huge source of calories and sugar. Opt for water sweetened with lemon, or a small glass of wine.


Healthy, tasty options can be found at restaurants if you know what you're looking for. Of course, if you're only eating out once a month, splurging a little probably won't ruin your health. But if you're eating out more often, you should consider the lasting negative impact it can have on your weight and your health. Every restaurant will have more healthy and less healthy options, and it's up to you to decide which will be best for you. So plan ahead, choose wisely, and make your meal a nutritious one!