Tips for Eating Healthy when you Eat Out

While the typical fast food meal can add up to more than an entire days worth of calories and fat, smart food choices can be incorporated into eating out. With a little planning and some specific requests, you can stay on track with your healthy eating plan. Avoid fast food and dining out obstacles by following these guidelines:

1. Avoid fried foods. Choose grilled, baked and roasted foods instead.

2. Request skinless protein options. If there is skin on, take it off.

3. Choose turkey, chicken or fish for protein unless you need to gain weight. If choosing steak, opt for “loin” or “round” and trim off excess fat.

4. Get sauces on the side and use sparingly (typically most of the sugar/fat is in the sauce)

5. Choose light sides. Fresh fruit, a baked potato, soup, or a salad with oil based dressing are all good options.

6. Choose water or milk as your beverage.

Key Words of Caution:

Sauce – If there’s a sauce on it, ask for it on the side.  Soy sauce and mustard are two freebies that provide flavor and add nothing (except sodium). 

Preparations – Foods cooked in high fat methods may include any of the following terms:


­     Au gratin

­     Basted

­     Battered

­     Breaded

­     Buttered

­     Creamed

­     Crispy

­     Crunchy

­     Gravy

­     Hollandaise

­     Refried (beans, unless vegetarian, made without lard)

­     Scalloped

­     Sweet and sour

­     Tempura

Bread –  If you are opting for a sandwich or anything on bread, ask for it unbuttered since many places sneak butter in where it doesn’t belong.

Here are some additional tips and tricks for maintaining good nutrition and portion control when eating out:

Check the nutrition information.  Most chain restaurants have it posted somewhere (fast food and quick service restaurants often have it in the restaurant itself; sit down restaurants typically have it on their website).

Eat your fruits and vegetables first.  Not only will this method ensure that you actually eat them but you’ll also get so full by the time your meal is done that you probably won’t have much room for that double hot fudge sundae.

Take your time to order.  If you aren’t sure how something is cooked, ask.  And don’t be afraid to ask for something prepared the way you want it prepared.  If the side vegetable dish comes with a cream sauce, ask for this dish steamed with no sauce. 

Share your food.  If you really want a dessert, share it or take part home with you for later.

Skip buffets.  All you can eat buffets not only tempt you to gorge yourself but they also usually have their formerly healthy veggies soaking in butter sauces (and by sitting out under those heat lamps those veggies are also losing nutrients).  Fried meats, white bread, veggies soaked in high fat sauces and ice cream are the foundation of most all-you-can-eat buffets. Salad-based buffets are a better choice though they still contain many fatty ingredients.

Eating out can be fun and relatively harmless to your healthy eating habits if you know what to look for and keep these tips in mind.