Dining out is a treat many people enjoy one or more times a week. Restaurant meals are often delicious and enable people to sample foods they may never try or prepare at home.
While flavor is something restaurant foods have in common, so are huge portion sizes. And foods served at a favorite restaurant may not always align with personal diets.
Restaurants have no standard serving guidelines for meal portions. Customers have to rely on asking servers what’s in the foods and seeing if nutritional information, including calorie counts, are offered on menus.
Being on a diet doesn’t mean you have to give up on your social life and nights out on the town. Learning to navigate restaurant menus and following some tips can help people stay healthy while dining out.
Cut out calorie-heavy beverages
Why drink your calories when you can reserve them for tasty foods? Sodas, sweetened iced teas and alcoholic beverages contain calories that can quickly add up. Choose calorie-free beverages, such as diet soft drinks or plain water.
Limit salt, if possible
Avoid foods that are prepared with extra salt, such as foods that are smoked, cured or pickled. Items with soy sauce or broth also may be sodium-laden. Salt adds flavor, but people monitoring their salt intake due to hypertension should cut back on it. Choose fresh fruit and salads for appetizers, and ask that foods be prepared without salt or MSG.
Snack before you leave
Don’t skip meals on the day you will be eating out. Also, have a nutritious, light snack before going to the restaurant to fend off extreme hunger pangs that can lead to overeating once you are at the restaurant.
If you are unfamiliar with a restaurant, look online to preview its menu before arriving. Doing so will allow you more time to scour the menu and make healthy choices before you arrive at the restaurant.
Select simple meals
Opt for the most basic, lean meals when dining out. Grilled chicken or seafood without added sauces or toppings make for simple, healthy choices. Also, starchy foods may be high in calories, and some are seasoned with butter and oil, which adds significant fat content. Choose fruit, vegetables or salads (without dressing) for side dishes.
Split a large dish with someone else. If no one wants to split a meal, immediately wrap up half or two-thirds of the portion for later. This will help prevent overeating during a meal.
Maintaining healthy eating plans while dining out is possible with some advanced planning.