Beating Restaurants at Their Own Game!

Does your favorite restaurant serve piles of tempting foods on platters rather than plates? Are the biggie-sized meals at fast food restaurants trapping you into overeating? How do you deal with a bountiful breadbasket? Eating out is fun and relaxing, but you can make it healthier. Use these tried and true suggestions the next time you lock up the kitchen and step out for a meal:
  • Never go out while hungry. You’ll find yourself nibbling on everything that comes your way.
  • Foods that are grilled, baked, steamed or broiled provide healthy, flavorful alternatives. Ask how an entrée is prepared to ensure that your selection is not swimming in butter or other fattening sauce.
  • For pasta selections, choose a marinara sauce instead of a white cream sauce.
  • Order a healthy appetizer, salad, or small-sized entrée for your meal.
  • Select white chicken or turkey meat rather than dark meat, and have the skin removed.
  • Avoid the "all you can eat" and buffet-style restaurants.
  • Split a meal with a friend.
  • Get a doggie bag before the meal and put in a portion of the food when it is first served.
  • Avoid foods that have been prepared in heavy cream.
  • Eat slowly! Put your fork down between bites. It takes the stomach about 20 minutes to realize that it is full.
  • Order your salad or potato with the dressing, butter, sour cream, gravy and other extras on the side.
  • Trim all visible fat from meat.
  • Select fresh fruit, sorbet or frozen yogurt for dessert.
  • Watch the alcohol… it is loaded with calories and can lower your defenses against food, causing you to eat more.
  • Beware of the breadbasket. It comes early and can be refilled several times. Ask that it be brought with the meal and limit yourself to one serving.
  • Water is your best beverage choice. Order diet pop, tea, and coffee with artificial sweetener. Go light on the sugar and cream.
  • Don’t be afraid to special order menu items.
The key is to plan what to order in advance and stick to it. Decide on your priorities before going to the restaurant and avoid looking at the entire menu. Find what you had decided on and close the issue. Then, simply do the best you can with some smart choices. If you came for the burritos, then avoid the beans and rice. If you are there for the cheesecake, order a light meal or salad, with dressing on the side. With a few simple strategies, dining out does not have to totally destroy your dieting efforts.
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Member Comments

Some good ideas but the best is to choose wisely. Why do we feel like we must have everything that is available. Practice control at home, it makes it easier when you are out. Report
I order different kinds of salad Report
I have learned to just order the things I can eat. I never thought I'd say this, but my food allergies and sensitivities help me to eat healthy foods! Report
Have the hardest time eating out with food allergies. Fish allergy and Gluten free. It's hard but this was helpful Report
loving to eat out can be a problem so this is good info. Report
thanks Report
thanks Report
I love the idea of asking for the take home container at the start of the meal. I am going to do that next time. I can cut my meal in half & get the satisfaction of cleaning my plate. Thanks Report
thanks Report
.. Report
Good article. Report
Good article. Report
I try to check menus online before I go and pick something that's within my calorie range Report
When I go out to eat I count that as my cheat day. I skip the fries but allow myself a few from my daughters plate. I also found a few fav places that do soup and salad combos. Soups are great if theyre not cream based. I like cesar salads, dressing on the side, with lemon wedges. If its a good cesar then I just put lemon. Report
Never go out hungry? Sometimes that defeats its purpose. If you're going to a party with lots of finger food, its a good idea not to go hungry. However, if you are going out to eat dinner? Isn't the idea to get fed? There are smart choices in restaurants/ Report


About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.