Eating healthy while eating out can be super challenging. Today I'm sharing 25 no-fail tips to help you eat out while eating healthy.
Now on to the tips!
- Scout the menu. Most restaurants these days have an online menu. Before heading out, take a look at the menu options and decide what to order. Having a gameplan in place will help you resist temptations once you arrive at the restaurant.
- Have a little snack. Arriving hungry will definitely increase the odds that you’ll go for less-than-healthy options. Having a little snack beforehand will keep you from going off the deep end. Keep an apple or some dried fruit and a small handful of almonds or pumpkin seeds in your bag for a quick pre-dinner snack.
- Decide if it’s worth a splurge. Celebrating something special or heading out to your favorite restaurant? Decide ahead of time if you want to splurge and go for it with no guilt. Then get back to your healthy eating goals the next meal. If it’s not worth it though, don’t eat it. Save your splurges for the good stuff.
- Pick your splurges. When going out to eat I like to play the “is it splurge worthy?” game. If I really want a hamburger I ask myself these questions: “Do I really need a bun? Can I skip the cheese? Do I really want fries or can I substitute a side salad? Sometimes the answer is, “Yes, I want those fries!” but most of the time I can pick the one or two splurges and forgo the rest.
- Skip the bread and chip basket. Resisting a basket full of warm bread or crispy chips is a challenge for anyone. Give yourself a break and let the waiter know you don’t need it. If you’re with a group of people who want it, move the basket out of arm’s reach so you won’t be as tempted.
- Split It. Restaurant portions are often large enough to split. Consider splitting an entree with a friend, then order a side salad to round out the meal.
- Bubbles + citrus. My go-to drink of choice at any restaurant is a soda water with lemon and lime. It’s inexpensive and a little more special than plain water.
- Nix the sugary drinks. The sugar and chemicals in soda are rarely worth it, so ditch those in favor of soda water. Same goes for lemonade or juice.
- Skip the drink for a better workout tomorrow. Alcohol can be tempting when eating out, especially if you’re with a group. I’ve found, though, that even one drink can make a morning workout more difficult. Skip the drink and you’ll have a better workout the next day.
- Go bunless. Most restaurants are happy to swap lettuce for a bun. If you don’t need the bread go for a lettuce wrap instead.
- Ask questions. If you’re not sure what’s in a dish, (politely) ask the waiter. Ask about the ingredients and if you can’t find something you like on the menu, ask if they can make you something special.
- Be picky. It’s okay to advocate for yourself and ask for what you want. Unless you’re splurging be picky about the food choices you make and the ingredients you eat.
- When in doubt, go for protein + veggies. If you’re not sure what to order look for protein and veggie combos. Fish and vegetables are usually a good choice.
- Everything on the side. Yes, I’m the girl who orders everything on the side. Dressing, cheese, croutons, mayo, guacamole, special sauce; all on the side. Order your dressings and toppings on the side to control portion size and to decide what you actually want to eat.
- Beware hidden ingredients. Resturants like to hide ingredients, especially refined sugar and dairy. Not sure what’s in the sauce or how the chicken is prepared? When in doubt, be sure to ask.
- Be salad savvy. Salads are great but they’re not necessarily the healthiest option. If it comes with a creamy dressing or is piled high with cheese, croutons, bacon, or chips it’s probably not the best choice. Unless it’s your splurge, ask for questionable toppings and dressings on the side.
- Grilled not fried. When given the option, go with grilled chicken or fish rather than fried.
- Ask for add-ons. If you’re in the salad mood but can’t find an option you like consider starting with a lettuce base and asking for add-ons. A hard boiled egg, avocado, chickpeas, or grilled protein are great options. If you don’t like the dressing choices ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side.
- Check out the apps. Appetizers are usually served in smaller portions, making them a good main course option. Look for veggie-based soups, hummus, grilled fish or meat, or lettuce wraps.
- Veggie sides can make a meal. Some restaurants offer vegetable sides a la carte. Don’t be afraid to order several sides to create your own meal.
- Substitute veggies for chips, bread, or fries. Interested in ordering the hummus plate but want to avoid the pita that comes with it? Ask the waiter to substitute veggies for the bread. There might be a small upcharge, but it’s usually worth it. Similarly, ask for a green salad side in place of fries or bread.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Overeating can be all-too-easy when dining out. As soon as you’ve had enough ask the waiter for a to-go box and pack up leftovers to avoid eating more than you need.
- Rethink old temptations. If you know you can’t resist the pepperoni pizza and large soda at your favorite restaurant, go somewhere else. Unless it’s for a splurge meal set yourself up for success and head to a restaurant where you know you’ll have healthy choices.
- Travel with snacks. If you’re on-the-go be sure to pack some healthy snacks to tide you over in case there aren’t any good restaurant options. Fast food is the worst, and if you have some emergency snacks you won’t be tempted to hit the drive-through due to hunger pangs.
- Avoid the shame spiral. If you do end up overindulging while eating out remember that it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy your meal and make a healthy choice the next time.
What are your tips for healthy eating while dining out?
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