Eating Healthy When Dining Out

You’re on the treadmill, and the phone rings. It’s a good friend whom you haven’t seen in a while, and she wants to know if you’d like to meet with her for dinner at a restaurant one night this week. Little does she know you’ve been hard at work, trying to lose weight in time for swimsuit season. You’ve been making wiser food choices, and not only have you felt great since you’ve been eating healthier; you’ve actually turned the habit into your new lifestyle. After having made so much progress, the thought of going out to eat at a restaurant actually scares you.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Eating healthy when dining out is actually quite simple when you know what food items to choose and which ones to avoid. The following tips can help you stay on track, even when going out to eat:

- If you're not very hungry or would like to plan on eating less, try ordering a couple of small appetizers or an appetizer and a salad as your meal instead of an entree.

- When eating a salad, always order dressings on the side. This way you’re in control of how much dressing goes on it. You may even want to consider a little salt & pepper on your salad instead of dressing. Give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!

- Always choose water, diet soda, or tea instead of regular sodas or alcoholic beverages, as the latter are high in calories and sugar.

- Soups make great appetizers (as most are fairly low in calories), but when choosing a soup keep in mind that soups with a cream base are higher in calories and fat.

- Look for foods that are grilled, broiled, baked, poached, or steamed. These cooking methods use less fats and oils and are generally much lower in calories.

- Grilled fish and vegetables are very healthy choices. You can go one step further and request that the food be grilled without butter or oil.

- Foods containing whole grains, like whole wheat bread and brown rice dishes are also healthier alternatives.

- If your meal comes with a choice of side dishes, choose a baked potato or steamed vegetables instead of french fries or fried veggies.

- When you order a baked potato, try requesting salsa as a topping and forego the "loaded" option (normally butter, cheese, sour cream, and bacon). Salsa contains very few calories and is a much healthier alternative.

- When eating bread or rolls it is best to eat them plain. When you add butter, you increase the fat and calorie content considerably.

- Enjoy pasta? Just be aware that cream based sauces (such as alfredo sauce) are much higher in fat and calories than are tomato based sauces like marinara. Sauces with a tomato base are much lower in fat and calories and can even be counted toward your vegetable intake!

- Be sure you include dishes with vegetables and/or fruits in your meal. They are great sources of dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.

- If you order a dessert, either choose something low in fat with berries and fruit or consider sharing dessert with a friend. Half the dessert equals half the calories.

- Once you begin to feel satisfied, stop eating. Listen to your body and what it tells you. Don’t keep eating until you feel stuffed. You can always take remaining portions home with you.

It’s also important to remember that it’s ok to choose your favorite foods now and then, even if you consider them "not-so-healthy." You shouldn’t continuously deprive yourself of foods you truly love, even when eating out. As long as you eat them in moderation and know when to stop, a little treat here and there can still be a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle!

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About The Author, Susan Collmorgen
Susan Collmorgen is administrator of an online dining guide to Branson, MO. For information on Branson, Missouri restaurants visit: