Healthy Eating When You Dine Out

While dining out can be fun, convenient and even necessary at times, it can also challenge your health. This is particularly true if you travel or dine out several times a week.

How often do you dine out?

If you dine out a lot, the more consideration you should give to your food choices. Your goal should be to eat foods you enjoy while meeting your daily nutrient needs and not consuming too many calories, fat, sugar or sodium.

Consider all the foods you eat over a few days, rather than one meal at a time. For example, if you splurge when eating out, make up for it by eating a few lighter, smaller meals at home.

Healthy eating when dining out tips

It is possible to dine out and still eat healthfully — without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Here are some ideas to keep in mind next time you order off a menu!

Fast Food:

  • Opt for grilled menu items over fried — if you can’t resist something fried, keep it down to one fried food per meal.
  • Order rice or a baked potato instead of French fries. If you crave fries, order a small size instead of large or share an order with someone else.
  • Skip the double-decker entrees with extra bread and meat.
  • Go easy on the mayonnaise and other high fat spreads. Mustard, ketchup, horseradish and pickle relish are good low-fat condiments.
  • Have low-fat milk or 100 percent juice and forego the soft drink.
  • Resist super sized portions that seem like a good value — unless you are sharing it with someone else.

Eating in a restaurant:

  • Order small portion sizes or an appetizer — restaurant portions tend to be large.
  • Eat half a sandwich instead of a whole.
  • Choose whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or a croissant.
  • Select grilled, lightly sautéed or stir-fried items rather than those that are deep fried.
  • Try vegetarian dishes or dishes with little meat and more vegetables and grains. These include stir-fry meals, pasta dishes and casseroles.
  • Go easy on baskets of bread and other pre-meal offerings.
  • Order an appetizer and share a main entrée with a friend.
  • If your sweet tooth is calling, split a dessert.
  • Choose rice or a bean dish, such as lentils or black beans, instead of French fries.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Think about what you drink. A soft drink has 150-175 calories and virtually no nutritional value. Compare that to a glass of low-fat milk — for about 120 calories or less, you’re getting a third of your daily calcium requirement, in addition to vitamins A and D, protein and other important nutrients.