For many people, eating out is a way to relax and socialize. But if
you are watching your weight or just are concerned with healthy eating, dining
out can be a challenge. The good news is that usually there are healthier
options at every restaurant, even at fast-food places. By following some simple
guidelines, you can enjoy eating out and still have a healthy diet.
- Plan ahead. Before you go out to eat, think
about where you will eat and what you will select. It will be much easier to
make healthy choices if you have already decided what you will
- Try not to arrive at the restaurant overly hungry. It's
harder to make healthy food choices when you get too hungry.
about your portions. Restaurants often serve portions that are enough to feed
two or three people. To help you avoid overeating, order smaller portions,
split a meal with someone else, or save part of your meal for
- Choose menu items that contain fruits, vegetables, and whole
grains. Restaurant meals are often low in these things. By adding these foods,
you can have a balanced meal.
- When you travel, you are often forced to eat out at every meal. So bring snacks that pack well, such as dried fruit, pretzels, and nuts. Flying can trigger dehydration, so drink lots of water. And don't drink a lot of alcohol, because alcohol can also dehydrate you.
How can you make healthy choices when you eat out?
Follow the same guidelines when you eat out that you would if you were
eating at home. This doesn't mean that you have to give up ordering dessert.
But you may want to order it less often and share it with someone else at your
Think about your portions
- Ask for a half-size portion of the meal. Or
ask if the restaurant offers lunch-sized portions, which tend to be
- At fast-food restaurants, choose the smallest-size meal
option instead of "super-sizing."
- If you enjoy leftovers, try
putting half of your meal in a to-go box. Ask your server to bring the box with
your meal, so that you can split the meal before you even take the first bite.
- Try splitting a meal with someone else at your
- Avoid all-you-can-eat menu options and buffet-style
restaurants. Unlimited refills of soup or pasta may sound like a good deal, but
they can make it easier to overeat.
Make your meals lower in fat
- Before you order, find out how the food is
prepared. Foods that are broiled, poached, grilled, baked, or steamed tend to be lower in fat
than foods that are fried. Limit foods that are breaded or that come with cream
sauce or gravy.
- Ask to have butter, sour cream, gravy, and sauces
served on the side. This will allow you to control how much you
- Choose reduced-fat salad dressings. Or choose oil-and-vinegar
salad dressings instead of creamy dressings.
- Order hamburgers and
sandwiches without the high-fat extras, such as cheese and bacon.
- Choose leaner deli meats such as turkey or roast beef rather than salami or bologna.
- If you want dessert, look for low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, fruit ice, or sherbert.
Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Order extra vegetables on pizzas and
- Substitute vegetables or a baked potato for french
fries. At fast-food restaurants, ask if you can have a salad or fruit instead
of french fries.
- Try vegetarian menu options. Ethnic restaurants,
such as Indian, Thai, or Japanese restaurants, often have a wide variety of
- Ask for brown rice and whole-grain pasta
instead of white rice and pasta. Pick whole-grain bread and tortillas.
Choose your beverages carefully
- Opt for water instead of sugar-sweetened soft
drinks. If you don't like plain water, try other sugar-free or low-calorie
beverages, such as fruit-flavored sparkling water or unsweetened iced
- Remember that alcoholic drinks can have a lot of calories. A
large cocktail, such as a margarita, can have as many calories as your main
Return to Healthy Eating: Making Healthy Choices When You Eat Out