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Dining Out and Eating Smart

With planning, you can make healthy choices when you go out to eat.

plate of salad

Eating out can be tricky if you’re trying to manage your weight. But you can order a delicious meal that won’t sabotage your hard work. Here are some tips and ideas for making healthy choices during your next dinner out:

  • Make a plan. Look at menus online ahead of time and pick a restaurant that offers a range of choices.

  • By picking a restaurant that's a 15-minute walk, you ensure you get a meal and 30 minutes of exercise. If you walk with co-workers or friends, you also get to chat.

  • Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch. Or cut back on calories during other meals if you know you’re going to a restaurant.

  • Avoid going to a restaurant famished. Eat before you get too hungry.

  • Starting your meal with a salad can help you feel satisfied sooner. Pick a salad that’s packed with veggies.
  • Pick a low-fat salad dressing and ask for it to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you need.           
  • Read restaurant menus carefully for clues. Foods that are described as baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed are often lower in fat and calories.
  • Foods that are typically higher in fat and calories are batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed, crispy or breaded. Choose these foods only occasionally and in small portions.
  • Pay attention to portions. Restaurants often serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people. Consider sharing an entrée or dessert with a friend.

  • Order an appetizer in place of an entrée and add a small salad or a side dish.
  • Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for signals that you are no longer hungry to travel from your stomach to your brain.

  • Eat fast food only occasionally. If you find yourself in the drive-thru, your best choice is generally grilled chicken.
  • Remind yourself that you don’t have to clean your plate. Ask for a doggie bag and pack up half of your meal. That way, you won’t be tempted to eat more than you need. Use your leftovers for another meal at home.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. If you do drink alcohol, limit alcoholic drinks to up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men. And keep in mind some people shouldn't drink at all.
  • Stick to lower-calorie drinks. For example, try water with a splash of fruit juice, diet drinks or unsweetened iced tea.

By Beth Hawkins, Contributing Writer

Sources Eating foods away from home. Accessed: November 7, 2016.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Eating healthy when eating out. Accessed: November 7, 2016.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Healthy eating on the run: A month of tips. Accessed: November 7, 2016.

Updated November 7, 2016