Eating Out for the Health Conscious

Living a healthy lifestyle and watching the way you eat doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal at a restaurant. Knowing what to look for and the right foods to choose, you and your family can still take pleasure in eating out.

Planning Ahead and Picking a Restaurant

One of the most important aspects of eating out is being knowledgeable in the right way to eat out. You should have a plan in place and already know ahead of time where you will eat as well as which foods are appropriate choices. When following a certain eating plan, you should never eat out on a whim. If you want to eat out, you should plan ahead of time when you are going to eat out. This way if you plan on eating out at dinner, you can cut back on calories throughout the day since restaurant meals, even the healthier choices, tend to be higher in calories. If you plan on eating out for lunch, then you would need to adjust your dinner meal to be lighter. A lot of thought should go into choosing a restaurant to eat at.

You should narrow down your restaurant choices and think about the pros and cons of each. You should already know the menu choices of each restaurant to know which foods are offered. You should choose a restaurant that offers a wide variety of food choices, including healthy varieties of foods.

If possible, choose a restaurant that offers foods to be cooked a certain way to fit your eating habits. For example, many restaurants allow you to choose if you would like your meat grilled instead of fried. Many restaurants allow you to make certain requests such as trimming fat from meat, using less cooking oil when preparing a dish, serving low-fat or fat-free options instead of regular choices, and leaving off all types of gravy, butter, and salt from a dish.

Choose a restaurant that will accommodate to your eating style. Call the restaurant and ask questions if you need to. It is definitely a positive if they are willing to adjust their recipes or cook meals to fit a special request. Most restaurants will fulfill your requests because they want your business.


Choosing your meal in a restaurant is the most important element of eating out. Studies have shown that if you are mindful about your food choices when eating you, you can save yourself hundreds of unwanted calories. Before you order your meal, sit and contemplate on how hungry you actually are by letting yourself feel your hunger. When you know how hungry you really are, you are able to make a sensible choice on how much food you should be eating.

Typically the first thing you always order is your drink. You should go for a drink that is low calorie. People tend to drink a lot of calories without even realizing it. Order water or a diet soda. If you’re craving something alcoholic, order either a beer or a glass of wine. These have fewer calories than mixed drinks and liquor. If your restaurant offers calorie counts on the menu, that’s a great reference to help decide on a meal.

Eating Out for the Health Conscious

When looking over the menu there are certain adjectives that should automatically blacklist that meal. Words and phrases like butter, smothered, fried, battered, breaded, cream sauce, deep-fried, covered, and stir-fried are ones that you should avoid. You should try to choose a meal that is well-balanced and fits into your daily eating habits. Try to choose foods that are broiled, poached, grilled, baked, roasted, lightly sauteed, or steamed. Fun tip: veggies are healthier steamed than stir-fried. Stir-fry tends to use a lot of fattening oil. If you’re watching the way you eat, you could try going for an appetizer as a main course.

Not only will you be saving money, but appetizers come in smaller portions that are more appropriate. A healthy appetizer such as soup or steamed veggies and a side salad can make a great meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter if you can make alterations or substitutions to the meal. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate so you leave happy and are more likely to return. In most cases it is no problem at all for a restaurant to serve you with margarine instead of butter, or use skim milk in your meal instead of whole milk. Skip the endless pasta. As delicious as it is, endless pasta loads you up on tons of carbs and calories that you may unwittingly consume. Also avoid buffets at all costs. Buffets are an open invitation to submit to temptation. With dozens of choices at an all-you-can-eat buffet, it is harder to resist eating until you bust. Don’t order dessert. That double-fudge brownie ice cream sundae may be looking mighty appetizing, but you should resist ordering dessert to save on bad calories that hold zero nutritional value. Fill yourself up with your main course and the salad bar, if it’s offered and you likely won’t even be craving dessert.

Eating Your Meal

While eating you should use the same practice you did before ordering. You should be aware of how much food you are eating, and stop as soon as you feel your hunger subside. This prevents you from over-eating and consuming an excess of calories. Eat slowly to eat less. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to send the message to your brain that you are full. The slower you eat, the less you will end up eating, and the fewer calories you will consume.

If you are at a restaurant that offers bread before a meal, skip the bread. Bread not only saves you carbs, but also calories that you can get by loading up on tons of veggies later in the meal. Save some for later. If you are feeling full and satisfied but haven’t finished your meal, ask the waiter for a to-go plate or to wrap the meal up for you to take home and enjoy later. Another option is as soon as your food arrives to your table, immediately ask the waiter to wrap up half of your meal to take home. This prevents you from eating more than you wanted to. Above all else, try to be very aware of how much food you have eaten. It is easy to shovel an entire meal into your mouth without realizing it, especially when you are socializing with friends.

Eating Out with Kids

Taking kids out to eat can be a hassle, especially when you are trying to eat healthy. You should choose restaurants that offer healthy choices for kids, and that have small portions that are age appropriate. To keep kids’ meals healthy, order them milk or water as a beverage. Instead of a side like fries, opt for a steamed veggie such as broccoli or carrots. You don’t have to completely skip dessert for kids, but instead of a cookie or ice cream, get them fruit. To make the experience more fun and to keep an older child from acting out, you can choose a few healthy choices from the menu, and let them choose which they want from those.

Eating out may seem like an impossible feat for anyone that is trying to eat healthy, but with a little preparation and knowledge, it can be done without a cinch.