10 Tips for Healthy Eating Out

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Carrie DeVries on July 16, 2021
  • The Dish on Dining Out
    The Dish on Dining Out
    It's one thing to watch your portion sizes and limit unhealthy foods at home. But what do you do when the buffalo chicken wings are on special at your favorite family restaurant? Use these 10 tips to tailor your eating-out experience so it's both enjoyable and healthy.
  • Ban the Buffet
    Ban the Buffet
    Choose your destination wisely. Find a restaurant where the food is cooked to order rather than made ahead of time. And avoid buffet-style restaurants, where you're more likely to eat more than you need.
  • wheat intolerance
    Ditch the Chips
    Go easy on the complimentary bread or chips. They can up your fat and sodium intake before you've even seen your entrée.
  • Couple having lunch outdoors
    Be Open to Alternatives
    Find the healthy options on the menu. Today, many restaurants—even fast-food joints—have added healthy alternatives to their menus. Look for low-salt and low-fat options.
  • Grilled Salmon Fillet
    Get Steamy!
    Seek out healthy cooking techniques. If the menu doesn't specify they're available, don't be afraid to ask. Healthier dishes will often be:

    • Baked

    • Broiled

    • Grilled

    • Poached

    • Steamed

  • gettyimages 560126739
    Skip Crisp
    Avoid less-healthy cooking options. These include foods that are:

    • Basted

    • Buttered

    • Creamed

    • Crispy

    • Fried

    • Pan-fried or pan-roasted

    Also, ask if the dish can be prepared with less cooking oil, with visible fat trimmed off meat, with margarine instead of butter, or without gravies and sauces.
  • plate of salad and dressing
    Side Servings
    Always order dressing and sauces on the side. Even healthy dishes like salads and lean meats can quickly become unhealthy if they're slathered in high-fat sauces or dressings. Ask for these to be served on the side. You'll be surprised at how little you actually use!
  • gluten-free pizza with bacon and green onions, closeup
    Be on Portion Patrol
    When it comes to healthy eating in restaurants, nutritious food is only half the battle. The other half is portion size. During the past two decades, the average portion sizes in restaurants have grown considerably, distorting our ideas of what a "normal" portion should look like. Studies have shown that people eat more when they're given a larger portion. This can derail weight-management efforts. Most restaurants will honor a request to split an entree into two separate portions or serve a smaller portion.
  • bowl of pasta salad
    Size It Up
    Get portion-savvy. Here are examples of proper portions:

    • 1 serving of rice or pasta = half a baseball

    • 1 baked potato = a fist

    • 1 serving of salad greens = a baseball

    • 1 serving of cheese = 4 dice

    • 1 serving of margarine = 1 die

    • 1 serving of meat, fish, or poultry = a deck of cards

    • 1 serving of peanut butter = a Ping-Pong ball

    To combat overgrown portions in a restaurant, order smaller portions when possible, share an entree, or ask for a to-go box to take half of it home.
  • Bowl of streamed broccoli
    Sub a Side
    Don't forget healthy sides. If a meal comes with fries or chips, ask if you can substitute fresh or steamed veggies or a baked potato (with low-fat sour cream instead of butter or cheese).
  • berries, fruit salad
    A Sweet Ending
    Lighten up at meal's end. It's time for dessert! You don't have to forgo it entirely. Just look for healthier options like fresh fruit, sherbet, or angel food cake. Sharing one dessert is another great calorie saver!
10 Tips for Healthy Eating Out

About The Author

  1. Tips for Eating Fast Food. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1092
  2. Eating Out for People with Heart Failure. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=317
  3. Tips for Eating Out. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=531
  4. Do Increased Portion Sizes Affect How Much We Eat? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/portion_size_research.pdf
  5. Eating Healthy When Dining Out. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/dine_out.htm
  6. Portion Distortion and Serving Size. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/learn-it/distortion.htm

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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 16
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