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Tips for Eating Healthy in Restaurants

Updated on November 15, 2015
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Jaynie is a seasoned marathoner, triathlete and soccer player with an interest in fitness and nutrition.

Tips for Eating Healthy in Restaurants

Dining out sure makes life a lot simpler. In today’s hectic world, families have a hard time finding ways to come together around the dinner table. Though I whole-heartedly advocate for making time to do so, there will be the occasional evening or lunch in which that is simply not possible. When you are forced by circumstance to eat away from home, one of the things that may concern you most is the loss of control over how foods are prepared. You will have fewer choices of low-fat, low-calorie foods from which to choose. That does not mean that you simply have to give in to poor nutrition. Here are a few healthy tips to keep in mind when dining out.

  • Avoid fast food chains when possible. If fast food is all you have time for, consider places such as Subway or other places that specialize in more than fried foods. Sandwich shops have a variety of options including healthier meats, non-fat mayos and dressings, and fresh vegetables. You can also opt to leave off fattier items such as cheese.
  • Ask your server for a special menu. Some restaurants have separate menus that include healthier fare or fare for diabetics. You can inquire about whether the restaurant of your choice has one.
  • Many menus flag healthy items with a special icon or have separate menu sections that feature healthier fare such as low-carb or low fat choices. When possible, choose from that section of the menu.
  • Top pancakes and waffles with fresh fruits and/ or yogurt instead of syrup
  • Choose whole grain and vegetable options such as whole wheat breads, brown rice, spinach noodles,
  • When given a choice, ask for grilled vs. fried meats.
  • Fish boils are excellent and tasty alternatives to traditional fish fries.
  • Egg substitutes are better for you than regular eggs. They include far less cholesterol.
  • Ask for low or fat-free salad dressings. Have dressings and other sauces put on the side so you can control the portions.
  • If your dinner includes salad bar, fill up on the salad and eat only half of your entrée. You can take the remaining portion home for a separate meal.
  • Ask for lunch portions or half-portions of food instead of full portions.
  • If ordering hamburgers or chicken sandwiches, choose to eliminate the buns.
  • Consider turkey or veggie burgers instead of hamburgers.
  • Ask for toasted bread instead of breads grilled in oils or butter.
  • Opt for fat-free mayo for sandwiches. Request it on the side.
  • Drink a lot of water during your meal to facilitate feelings of fullness like you would at home.
  • Order steamed vegetables and/ or steamed rice or soup as sides instead of French fries or other fried foods.
  • Pasta is a great choice for athletes on the night before a big race, however avoid creamy sauces and butter. Pastas tossed with lemon juice and olive oil are far healthier and every bit as delicious. Just add fresh veggies and shrimp or tofu for added flavor.
  • Order from the ala carte menu so you have more control over reduced calorie selections.
  • When ordering specialty coffees ask for skim milk and no whipped cream. If you drink coffee after dinner, ask for skim milk.
  • Smoothies are far healthier than milkshakes and can help curb your sweet tooth. They are made from fresh fruits, crushed ice and yogurt.
  • Fresh fruits or sorbets make great desserts.
  • Eat slowly. Make sure to thoroughly chew your food and drink plenty of fluids. Those who eat more slowly, tend to eat less, reducing overall caloric intake and consumption of fat and carbs.
  • Cut food into smaller bites. The more often you raise your fork to your mouth, the more you will feel as if you’re eating. It’s a psychological game, but it typically works.

In the end, it is important to simply enjoy your meal. If you aren’t making a habit of eating unhealthy foods, it won’t hurt to indulge on an infrequent occasion.


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