Eating out at a restaurant doesn’t have to interrupt your diet! You can still make smart choices about your meals and maintain a healthy diet while grabbing some food at a restaurant. It all comes down to some good planning, careful orders, and better eating habits.
Know Before You Go
If you know ahead of time that you’ll be eating at a restaurant, use that knowledge to your advantage!
- Choose the right restaurant. You don’t want to eat somewhere with only a handful of unhealthy options. Pick a place with a number of different, healthy choices.
- Go over the menu online if possible. You’ll get to think more closely about the kind of meal you want and the nutrients you’ll need from it. Some restaurants list nutritional information in their menus, so you’ll be able to make an informed choice.
- Decide on your meal beforehand if you have access to the menu or if you know the restaurant.
- Eat carefully throughout the day. Don’t skip any meals, and snack if you need to. If you’re planning on eating a big dinner at the restaurant, eat a light lunch.
Order with Confidence
Some of us may be shy or don’t want to seem like fussy customers when we order our food, but remember that what you order is going inside your body. You can take charge of what you eat by asking questions and ensuring that your order is customized to what you need. Good waiters and chefs will understand that.
- Skip the bread basket. You’d end up filling yourself with starchy carbs instead of a potentially healthy meal. If you still want something to chew on while you wait for your food, ask for raw vegetables instead.
- Look out for foods on the menu that are described as fried, sautéed, crispy, rich, or au gratin. Instead, choose foods described as steamed, grilled, baked, or broiled.
- Ask how dishes are prepared. The menu won’t say all. Ask what kinds of oils the foods are cooked in, whether a cholesterol-free option is also low-fat, or any other questions you have about how the food is prepared.
- Customize your order. Most restaurants will agree to any request their customers make. If something comes fried, you can ask for it grilled. You can also ask to have dressings and sauces served on the side so you can control the amount you eat. Ask for extra vegetables too—even three times as much as what normally comes with the meal—to get a good helping of leafy greens.
- Order half the portion of the entrée or have an appetizer or two as your meal. Restaurant portions are typically large enough to feed two people, so avoid eating the full entrée. You can split an entrée and share it with someone.
- Substitute fried and fatty side dishes like French fries for healthier options like vegetables or a baked potato.
Eating Habits to Adopt
- Remember that you don’t need to finish everything on your plate. You may want to stuff yourself full to “get your money’s worth,” but you can always take food home. Enjoy restaurant-quality leftovers at home or for lunch at work the next day.
- Eat slowly. It can take as much as 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal that you’re full. Fast eaters tend to be overeaters, so take your time and give your brain the chance to catch up to your stomach.
- Have fruit as a dessert if you’re craving something sweet after your meal. It’s a healthier option than double fudge lava cakes and ice cream.