Are you making healthy restaurant food choices? Check out these expert strategies to help out your eating out!

  • 3 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Are you looking for healthy ways to avoid the trap of consuming more calories, fat, sodium, and sugar when making restaurant food choices? Read on for expert advice for healthy dining out options.

Healthy restaurant food choices

Making healthy restaurant food choices

Do you dine out more than a few times a week? If so, it is important to take charge of what you choose so you don't regret the excess calories. As you probably know, most restaurants pride themselves on generous portions. In fact, studies show that meals consumed in restaurants are not only higher in calories than home-cooked meals but usually contain more saturated fat and sodium, with less calcium, iron, and fiber.

Restaurant meals don't have to be loaded in excess if you use some of these strategies to make healthy food choices.

1. Plan ahead

2. Enjoy the restaurant experience, not just the food

3. Seek out vegetables and fruits

4. Trim the hidden calories

5. Make smart beverage choices

6. Finish your meal with a light choice

7. Take home leftovers and downsize your choices

Quick-look chart of healthy restaurant food choices for different cuisines

Next time you dine out, use this quick-look chart of our tips applicable to common restaurant cuisines.

Common Restaurant Cuisines Tips
Breakfast Get lots of veggies on an omelet.
Request toast unbuttered or skip it.
Opt for reduced-fat coffee drinks or plain coffee or tea.
Request syrups and butter on the side.
Skip fatty meats, cheeses, and gravies.
Buffets/Salad bars Load up on veggies and greens.
Choose lighter salad dressings, or a lemon wedge, vinegar, and black pepper.
Get fresh fruit for dessert.
American/Deli Have an open-faced sandwich.
Limit the cheese and spreads.
Load up on veggies, pickles, and peppers.
Skip the chips. Ask for fruit or salad instead.
Asian Sushi and broth-based soups are light.
Ask for low-sodium soy sauce.
Choose steamed or grilled items. Skip the fried entrees.
Choose brown rice and eat half.
Fast/casual food Get a smaller sandwich or opt for lean protein on a salad.
Don't super-size.
Choose grilled items.
Split small fries. Drink water.
Mexican Choose a la carte items instead of a platter.
Plan to take half home.
Avoid fried and smothered items.
Remove chip basket from table.
Load up on salsa, lettuce, tomato instead of sour cream, guacamole, and cheese.
Ask for sauces and condiments on the side.
Italian Choose tomato and broth-based sauces instead of cream sauces.
Get thin crust pizza, not thick.
Load up on veggies.
Order an appetizer instead of an entree.
Choose fish or grilled chicken instead of fatty meats.
Plan to take half home or split.
Seafood Choose grilled or broiled fish or shellfish.
Avoid fried fish and fried sides.
Ask for light on oils and butter.
Get steamed veggies instead of a starchy side.
Steakhouse Choose smaller sizes of lean cuts of beef (petite filet), pork, or poultry. Go easy on the sauces.
Get a plain baked potato and add a small amount of toppings.
Fill up on a large salad with salad dressing on the side.

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Yes, large portions of food do cause overeating - 7 Simple tips to combat portion distortion
The benefits of cooking at home vs eating out - 10 tips for successfully making healthy and tasty foods

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Dining Out->Buffet & Cafeteria Weight Loss->Behavior Weight Loss->Food Environment
Dec 10, 2021

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