Eating healthy while eating out

Learn useful tips for eating healthy while enjoying the experience of eating out at a restaurant.

August 3, 2016 - Author: Christi Demitz, Michigan State University Extension and Hannah Reagan, MSU Extension Intern

Making the decision to go out to eat can easily be the best part of your day. Choosing from a variety of meal options, having your food served directly to you and best of all, no clean up! However, for those who try to stick to a healthy diet, it may seem like a difficult task to enjoy eating out while also eating healthy. No need to worry, there are many tips and tricks to eating healthy while still enjoying the luxury and convenience of going out to eat.  

Eating healthy while eating out can be done simply as long as you pay attention to three key components: portion sizes, how your food is being prepared and add-ons to your meal. These are commonly overlooked aspects of eating at a restaurant and if not taken into consideration can lead to overeating and consuming an unhealthy proportion of calories and fats.

Portion size

It has become common to go to a restaurant and order a meal for yourself only to find when it arrives at your table that it could feed a family of four. No one needs the amount of food in one sitting that restaurants serve as a portion. A few simple ways to fix this portion distortion is to try splitting one meal between two people, ask for a to-go box when your food arrives and box up half of it for another meal the next day, or order an appetizer as an entrée. These are cheaper options and will allow you to eat in moderation.

Food Preparation

How your food is prepared can make a big difference in its nutritional value. When choosing a meal to order at a restaurant, choose protein options that are lower in fat, such as seafood, chicken and lean red meat. Also, look for options that are broiled, baked, steamed, grilled, roasted and skinless. These are healthier alternatives in food preparation than frying foods and smothering them in heavy sauces.

Meal Add-ons

These include beverages, appetizers, desserts, side dishes and sauces and dressings. All of these extras contribute to the total amount of calories, fats and sodium that you are consuming during your meal. Even these add-ons can be made healthier, though. For example, try ordering water, unsweetened ice tea, or another beverage with no added sugar. For your food, consider replacing sides of fried foods with salads, a baked potato and other veggies as a lighter, healthier option. Additionally, you can split a dessert with everyone at your table or choose a fresh fruit option. You can even ask for sauces and dressings on the side and try dipping your fork in them before bites to get a taste and end up consuming less sauce.

Eating out should be a fun and relaxing activity to do every once in a while as a treat. Try practicing some of these healthy eating tips and tricks the next time you are out to eat. For more ways to incorporate healthier foods and practices into your lifestyle, visit Michigan State University Extension.

Tags: food & health, msu extension, nutrition, weight management

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