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Top 10 Tips To Making Healthy Choices While Dining Out

In America, we love to dine out! There’s a certain allure to exploring new restaurants, unique dishes, and refreshing beverages with friends and family. Which is why at 310, we definitely believe you should enjoy the experience of having some meals away from home. 

However, you also need to be prepared, because it’s very easy to slip into poor eating habits while dining out. And depending on how often you do it, it can start to take a toll on your health, along with derailing your weight loss efforts.

With growing plate sizes, sugar-laden menu items, and sneaky hidden ingredients, it can sometimes be quite a challenge to find – and decide upon – nutritious menu options. So, to help you stick to your weight loss and healthy lifestyle goals in the midst of tempting food items while eating out, we’ve put together a list of our top tips for success!

10 Tips For Eating Healthy While Dining Out

1) Choose The Location Wisely

People cheering during healthy dinner, sitting at rustic table

Possibly the hardest part about eating out while following a healthy dietary plan is choosing the location. While you may be craving a burger with a side of fries and a soda, picking a place with lots of nutritious options allows you to enjoy the fun of dining out, without the junk.

310 Tip: Take a few minutes to scan the menus at restaurants before you leave the house - and pick one with menu options that can fit into a clean diet plan.

2) Have A “Treat” Beforehand

There are plenty of times when you can’t control the location of the restaurant – such as at a friend’s birthday dinner or corporate event. However, you can control what you eat before you walk out the door! Having a tasty, nutritious snack before going out can help you make better choices at the restaurant – such as not filling up on the bread bowl.

310 Tip: Our recommendation is to have a thoroughly satisfying meal replacement shake – that tastes like a dessert while helping you crush your cravings before you get in front of the tempting menu!

 3) Don’t Drink Your Calories

Glasses of cocktails on bar background

We know, the house specialty margarita is often tempting. And honestly, a bit of indulgence in this area, especially for special occasions, is completely understandable, and that is more than okay! But, for an ordinary bite out, why fill up on high calorie drinks with little nutritional value?

310 Tip: Opt for water, which will promote hydration and support health and weight loss goals! Or, if you really want something else, try to skip the sugary choices like sweetened iced tea, lemonade or soda. Unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee (black or with a little cream) are also good choices.

4) When In Doubt, Ask

It’s usually pretty straightforward if a menu option is unhealthy or healthy while eating out. Cooking methods like grilled, steamed, roasted or poached are typically good options with less calories; While items that are breaded, fried, or barbecued tend to be less healthful. That being said, there are times when it can be hard to tell how nutritious a menu item is. 

310 Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter how a menu option is cooked or prepared. It’s much better than getting your meal and being disappointed because it’s less healthy than you thought.

 5) Mix It Up

Healthy Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap with Carrots

When trying to eat out in a more nutritious way, you want to find the perfect balance between indulging your cravings and making healthy choices. Sometimes to strike that balance, you have to ‘create’ your own meals.

310 Tip: A simple solution is to swap out the parts of a menu item that don’t fit into your diet. A good example of this is a bun-less burger, or replacing a side of fries with fresh fruit.

An alternative option is to order an item listed as an appetizer for your meal, and pair it with a soup or salad instead of an over-sized entree. Or better yet, split an entree with a friend if you know the restaurant has very big portions.

6) Fit In Greens

You always hear that you need to get more veggies in your day for a reason. And the same rule applies while eating out. Vegetables are a great source of fiber, which help keep you full and provide abundant nutrients. Plus, they’re low in calories.

310 Tip: If you squeeze veggies onto your dish somehow, you can help bring the nutrient content of your dish up, while also bringing the calorie count of your dish down (if you're replacing another item with the veggies). Plus, it can help satisfy your cravings while still finding balance; For instance, getting a cheesy sauce on broccoli will still satisfy your cheese craving in a more nutritious way than getting the sauce on something like fries!

7) Sauce On The Side

Variety of homemade sauces and salad dressings in jars

When you aren’t eating a healthy diet, you probably don’t even consider the sauces on your meals. But in reality, they can add a lot of extra fat, calories and sugar. Even things like salad dressings can be sneaky culprits.

310 Tip: To be safe, get all of your sauces and dressings on the side. You may get your meal and realize you don’t even need the sauce at all, or you only need a small amount! Either way, you can control the portion size you eat.

8) Order First

Even if you have your meal perfectly planned out in your head, you may be influenced by others at your table if they place their orders first. Though it may sound silly, there are actually studies showing that your menu choices might be greatly influenced by what others around you are getting.

310 Tip: Be the one to set the example instead of following the crowd by going first!

9) Practice Mindful Eating

Young Smiling Girl Eating Salad

If you’ve never heard of mindful eating, it’s a great practice to try with all your meals – especially when you’re trying to eat healthy while eating out. Many people rush through their meals, barely even tasting what they’re eating.

310 Tip: But mindful eating is the opposite, and involves enjoying the entire experience of your food… the smell, the taste, the way you feel and any thoughts that arise as you eat it. Doing this can even help you be satisfied sooner and possibly eat less calories overall.

10) Skip Dessert

We aren’t suggesting that you never indulge in a small portion of your favorite dessert now and then. But for times when you feel empowered to skip the extra calories and sugar, there are many healthier “sweet treat” options that can still satisfy.

310 Tip: Order something light like a bowl of fruit with plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or a cappuccino. Of course, another option is to have a sumptuous meal replacement shake smoothie that tastes just like a dessert when you get home from eating out – without the guilt!

By using the tips in this article, we hope you feel more in control of your choices the next time you’re trying to eat healthy while dining out. Remember, there’s a time to indulge and a time to stick to your clean dietary plan; Make a plan for success when you want to stay on your diet, and you’ll feel great after every meal!

Sources:

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-eating-foods-away-home

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/20-healthy-tips-for-eating-out#section7

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/healthdisp/pdf/tipsheets/Tips-for-Eating-Out.pdf

https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/eating-out/7-tips-for-healthy-dining-out

Written by:

Dana Gates

310 Nutrition Senior Writer

Dana Gates is a seasoned writer and researcher with over a decade of experience writing about all things health and wellness. Through her articles, she aims to inspire others to live their best, healthiest, and most active lives–by making wise lifestyle and dietary choices daily. Her ultimate goal at 310 [...]

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