6 Tips to Eating Healthier at a Restaurant

For everyone who has made a resolution to eat healthier, dining out can be a stressful and confusing time. Should you order the blackened steak or the Southern-style chicken? Are taco salads good or bad? Help is on the way: By late 2015, restaurant chains will have to show calorie information on menus. But until then, here are some clues that can help you figure out how every dish is prepared and how to make the healthiest choice you can:

  1. Memorize which words imply less-than-healthy preparation. They include: fried, creamy/creamed, buttery, breaded, pan-fried, scalloped, au gratin, battered, crispy, fritters and tempura.
  2. Also know which words get the green light. These include: baked, steamed, stewed, broiled, roasted, braised, poached, rubbed and grilled.
  3. If something says it comes with dressing or a sauce, ask if you can get it on the side so you can control how much goes on your plate. Plus, your leftovers will last longer since the food isn’t drenched.
  4. Focus on the appetizer section. These dishes are still typically large enough to satisfy you, especially if you pair them with a salad. If you absolutely want an entrée, either split it with a friend, ask if there’s a lunch portion available or ask the waiter to package half in a to-go box before serving you.
  5. Be the first person to order. Research shows that you tend to order similar foods as the other people at your table, so if you go first you won’t be influenced by the fact that your friends are all ordering cheeseburgers.
  6. All of this advice might do you no good if you’re starving when you sit down at the restaurant and your willpower is low. So check out the menu online before you go. You’ll have more time to make a wise choice (and sometimes extra nutrition information is available online).

You can also take the guess work out of eating out by using apps like HealthyOut, which can filter nearby restaurants based on your dietary restrictions or goals.

Did we miss any tips on ordering healthy options off a menu? Let us know in the comments sections below!


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Photo credit: Basheer Tome

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  1. You can request that they do not even bring the complimentary bread basket, then you won’t be tempted.

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