Whether you’re watching your weight or preparing for the upcoming holiday feasting, it’s possible to enjoy eating out without sabotaging your efforts. "The key is to be very selective, both in where you eat and what you order," says registered dietitian Mary W. Zbaracki, MPH, RD, LD, CDE, St. Luke's Clinical Nutrition and Diabetes Care. "Simple steps, such as ordering a la carte, requesting that sauces and dressings be served on the side, and asking how foods are prepared, can help you stay on track, even when dining out."
Try these additional tips and pointers for healthy restaurant dining:
- Look for restaurants that offer a wide range of menu items.
- Check the nutritional guide before ordering a fast-food meal.
- Pay attention to how food is prepared, choosing grilled, baked or broiled over pan-fried, steamed over creamed, braised over breaded.
- When ordering pizza, subs or sandwiches, take a pass on high-fat, high-sodium toppings like bacon, pepperoni and sausage; instead, go for lean meats, chicken, shrimp or Canadian bacon.
- For made-to-order subs, choose whole grain bread, low-fat meats and lots of raw veggies.
- When ordering steak, choose smaller portions and remember to trim the fat.
Belly up to the (salad) bar.
- Bypass the iceberg lettuce and go with dark, leafy greens like spinach and romaine.
- Top your salad with a fat-free or low-fat dressing, rather than a high-fat creamy option.
- Fill up on veggies and greens before beginning the main course.
- Skip the pickles, which are high in sodium.
- Substitute a baked potato, steamed vegetables, fruit or a side salad for chips or French fries.
- Ask for sauces, dressings and toppings on the side, and use them sparingly.
- Skip the sugary soft drink and ask for water with a slice of lemon instead.
- Order one dessert (and plenty of forks) for the whole table to share.
Next time you're faced with a menu of meal options, keep in mind that eating a healthy, balanced diet isn't just good for you. It actually helps you feel better.