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Ideas for Dining Out

Guidelines for Dining Out and Staying Healthy

Following a few simple rules when dining out makes it possible to maintain your nutritious diet even when you are away from home.

  1. Order food to go – Studies show that people tend to consume more food when they are not eating at their own kitchen tables. When you take fast food home, you also have the option of providing a healthier side dish such as fruit or vegetables.

  2. Avoid buffets – All-you-can-eat buffets promote overeating. If the temptation isn't in front of you, you are less likely to overindulge.

  3. Stick to the light menu / Make careful menu selections – Many restaurants indicate healthy choices on their menus, and most sit-down places will modify menu items on your request. Additionally, fast food restaurants now offer a wider range of healthy choices and most will provide nutritional information on all of their offerings by request. Knowing how food is prepared can be a good indication of whether it will work with your diet or ruin it. Main courses which have been baked, broiled, roasted, poached or steamed will be more healthy than anything fried. Salads with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and lighter dressings will be better than salads with croutons, cheeses, meats and heavy dressings.

  4. Don't be afraid to special order – Most restaurants have plenty of things that are good for you, but they are served in heavy sauces. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask if things are fried or cooked in oil or butter – if they are, see if you can order them in a more healthy way. Many restaurants, even fast food restaurants are happy to accommodate your requests.

  5. Watch portion size – At a typical restaurant, a single serving provides enough calories for at least two meals. Portion sizes at restaurants are usually double or triple what a person would normally eat so it is important to keep that in mind when ordering and eating. If it is possible to order a smaller portion (often called ‘half sizes'), that will help eliminate the temptation to overeat. If you can't order smaller portions, it is a good rule of thumb to leave at least one-third to one-half of the meal on your plate. Or, separate your meal before you start eating so that you create a distinction between what you are going to eat in the restaurant and what you want to take home. Ordering something that will reheat easily will provide you with a delicious lunch or dinner the next day.

  6. Share – Sharing entrees, appetizers and desserts with dining partners is a great idea. It allows you to sample something that you really want to have while also helping you avoid the temptation to overindulge. If you are sharing with a friend or your partner, your portion size is automatically reduced and there is less available to eat. It is still important to make good menu choices, but sharing might make dessert (or something else indulgent) more of an option.

  7. Order sauce and dressing on the side – If you ask for sauces and dressings on the side, you can control the amount that you eat. Often you can use less than is normally used and still enjoy the same taste.

  8. Remember the big picture – Think of eating out in the context of your whole diet. If it is a special occasion or a fun social occasion and you know you want to order your favorite meal at a nice restaurant, cut back on your earlier meals that day. Moderation is always key, but planning ahead can help you relax and enjoy your dining out experience without sacrificing good nutrition or diet control.

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