How to Eat Healthy When Dining Out

December 15, 2017

It’s that time of the year. The leaves have all fallen as colder weather ushers in winter. It’s a time when family and friends gather more often for celebrations and gatherings where food is the centerpiece. Breaking bread together and baking treats is a universal sign of goodwill, friendships, and is often referred to as a bonding experience across cultures. Another bonding experience involves eating out at your favorite restaurants with friends and family!

Next Thing You Know…

Unfortunately, not paying attention to what you’re eating can add unwanted pounds. This is a concern for many. Don’t worry, though. There are several ways you can choose food that will help you keep your waistline intact. No need to avoid eating out. These tips can help you eat healthy at restaurants all year round.

Prepare in Advance

If you know you’re going out to dinner in advance, you can plan to eat less during the day in order to accommodate the meal you will be having that night.

PRO TIP: Have a healthy snack that’s high in protein and low in calories before you go so you don’t arrive famished. Peanut butter on whole grain bread, yogurt or a handful of almonds or cashews to snack on can make a big difference when it comes time to order.

Navigating the Menu

Regardless of whether you are going to a restaurant that you are familiar with or not, you should search the online menu. You can usually find nutritional information, such as cholesterol or calorie intake, that can help you narrow down your choices before you get there.

Depending on how closely you are watching your eating habits, you may want to find out more about how the food is prepared. You can call and ask in advance when you’re checking out their menu online. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that are important to you. Do they use whole milk? Are there alternatives to the fried foods on the menu? Can they customize menu items?

Here are some healthy hints you can use to make your meal more nutritious:

  • Many restaurants have icons or symbols next to dishes that are considered lighter fare or heart healthy. This is where you can find most of the meals that are low in fat, salt, cholesterol and calories. This is a great place to start if you’d like to get more familiar with what is healthy and what is not.


  • Restaurants usually offer something to snack on while you’re perusing the menu. These range from a free appetizer to bread, or chips and salsa. Showing up too hungry doesn’t pay. Use the pro tip and avoid munching on the temptations they place on the table.


  • If your entrée comes with a starchy potato, swap it out for some tasty vegetables, like broccoli or a salad. If you REALLY, REALLY want a potato, you can substitute a sweet potato for that traditional potato to increase the nutrition value a bit. Order any dressings on the side so that you have control as to how much you use.


  • Understanding some basics can help you avoid hidden calories or salt intake. Anything fried, prepared au gratin, or that is cheesy or creamy probably has loads of butter or oil involved in its preparation. Foods that are described as pickled, au jus, or containing MSG are high in sodium and should be avoided.


  • Healthy choices include terms like “in its own juice,” baked, broiled, roasted and steamed. You can also choose leaner cuts of meat, like grilled chicken, London broil, sirloin tip or tenderloin—and of course, seafood.


Wait. Fat is Good?

YES! Some kinds of fat are good. The good fats (mono/polyunsaturated) are in avocados, olives, nuts and fatty fish, like salmon. The fats you should avoid (saturated) include several meats, such as fatty beef, lamb, pork and skin-on poultry. Products made with whole or 2% reduced-fat milk also fit into this category.

Eat Slowly

It takes the brain 20 minutes to get the message from your stomach that it’s full. If you eat fast, you increase your chance of overeating simply because your brain doesn’t get the message to stop.

Putting down your utensils between bites is one suggestion for eating more slowly. Another way to make the meal more drawn out and enjoyable is to concentrate on the flavors, aromas and textures. Savor the meal, the atmosphere and your company.

Controlling Portion Sizes

Many restaurants serve much larger portions than what should be eaten in one sitting. If you find yourself in this situation, ask the server to pack up half of the meal before it’s served so you won’t be tempted, or share the meal with someone else.

Good Location, Fast Service

When choosing a restaurant, consider the location and what it has to offer. Rivulon, on the corner of Gilbert Road and the AZ 202, offers a variety of restaurants and other shopping opportunities. Good food and excellent service in a great location. Something everyone can enjoy.