Restaurant Eating Tips
Enjoy the foods you love without a calorie overload
You’ll find dozens of ideas here for eating delicious restaurant foods and still eating healthy—but most importantly, remember these 2 tips:
If you are going to eat out, think about what you are eating the rest of the day so you can plan well and not blow your “calorie budget.”
Have it your way. Restaurants are in the business of serving customers. Don’t be afraid to ask for items prepared the way you want them.
When you know you’re going to eat out, think about what foods you’ll choose over the whole day. For instance, plan on a light lunch if you’ll eat out at dinnertime. Try not to skip meals, which may make you overindulge later.
And most importantly, don’t show up at the restaurant famished! If you’d like to splurge on a higher calorie entrée, plan to skip dessert, and commit to sticking to your plan once you’re in the restaurant. And try to avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, which can really test your self-control!
Eating out doesn’t have to wreak havoc with a healthy diet. Try some of the following tactics to help make restaurant foods fit into your own eating plan.
Order regular portion sizes instead of the jumbo or super sizes that are so common.
Try an appetizer, half an entrée, or share a meal with a friend and order an extra side salad.
Ask for half your entrée to be wrapped up to go before the food is brought to the table.
Order each item separately (a la carte) to get exactly what you want. For example, one chicken enchilada easy-on-the-sauce, side salad, and fruit dessert instead of the #8 enchilada plate with rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, etc.
Learn to spot which dishes are made with lower calorie cooking methods.
Ask your server what ingredients are used.
Ask how dishes are prepared and can they can do it your way: grill the chicken, steam the vegetables, bring sauces and salad dressings on the side, put just a dollop of cream sauce on the pasta primavera and order extra grilled vegetables.
Ask if you can make healthy substitutions, for instance, a baked potato instead of fries, or a salad or fresh fruit instead of coleslaw.
Don’t tempt yourself! Have the waiter remove the bowl of chips or peanuts, or the basket of bread, after you’ve had a small portion. Calories from mindless nibbling can add up before you know it.
Don’t sit near the dessert cart!
Limit alcohol. It’s high calorie, has few nutrients, and can weaken your will power.
Good menu choices
The following foods and methods of preparation are likely your best choices to help you stay within your healthy eating plan.
Clear broth-based soups like Chinese wonton or hot and sour soup, consommé, tortilla soup, or minestrone.
Lettuce or spinach salads with vegetables and dressing on the side. Go easy on the bacon bits, croutons, cheese, and mayonnaise-based items like macaroni salad or tuna salad.
Raw vegetables (crudités) with a small amount of low-calorie dip.
Steamed vegetables with a slice of lemon; grilled veggies if not drenched in oil.
Meats that are grilled, broiled, roasted, or baked without added fat. Choose seafood that is broiled, baked, steamed, blackened, or poached—think tender sole poached in parchment with broth, savory vegetables and herbs.
A reasonable portion of steak—3 to 6 oz.; other lean meat cuts served au jus, with a flavorful fruit sauce, or stir-fried with vegetables. Again, go easy on the rich sauces.
A baked potato with a pat of butter or small amount of sour cream. Top with broccoli, low-fat chili, or salsa.
Sandwiches on whole wheat, pita, multi-grain breads; with low-fat deli meats and cheeses; mustard, relish, ketchup, or low-fat mayonnaise. Add flavor and vitamins with roasted
sweet peppers, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, and chopped olives (small amount).
Fresh fruit, sherbet, and angel food cake are good choices for dessert.
Hidden calories: Look for the following descriptions to uncover higher calorie menu choices: pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy—as in the “crispy,” deep-friedtortilla bowl holding the salad.