Ten Ways to Make Good Choices While Eating Out

Most of us find it easy to make good choices when we’re at home and only have healthy options to choose from. Since never Fork with Veggiesleaving the house is not a reasonable option, we need to find easy ways to make positive choices when eating out. Questions about eating out are one of the most common questions I receive. I have many suggestions that can help. and have shared them below. Please note that these suggestions are not directly related to those with food allergies, but all of the suggestions can fit within pre-existing restrictions due to food allergies and other health issues. 

Top Ten Suggestions for Making Healthy Choices When Eating Out:

  1. Order a side salad with dressing on the side as an appetizer and eat it before ordering:  The salad will fill you up and keep your hands busy, allowing you to leisurely peruse the menu and enjoy time spent with friends. Many people overeat simply because they feel they need to “keep busy” in a social setting. Eating a salad therefore meets a variety of needs. The salad will also make it easier to not gorge yourself once dinner arrives, or to share a single entree with a friend.
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  2. Ask the server to skip the before-dinner bread (or chips):  No one needs that much bread or chips prior to dinner. Ask your server to not deliver the bread, or to only bring one slice of bread per person. You’ll wind up being able to enjoy your entree more as a result. Not eating the bread will also greatly reduce your carbohydrate consumption for the evening.
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  3. Ask the server to bring real butter instead of margarine:  Most restaurants have real butter available, but serve margarine due to the common myth that margarine is “healthier.” Real butter is far healthier than the hydrogenated oils in margarine. Go for it! (For more information about myths related to fat consumption, read:  Why You Need to Eat More Fat.)
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  4. Stick to the basics:  Opt for a salad, steak and vegetable; fish and rice; etc. Try to avoid veggies covered in cheese or other sauce. Keep it simple. Whole food is delicious!
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  5. Ask to have all sauces and dressings served on the side,and request a side of olive oil:  Sauces are delicious, but often contain MSG, high fructose corn syrup, artificial additives and more. Asking to have sauces served on the side allows you to use less, especially if you blend half of the sauce with a portion of the olive oil. If you want to skip the high fructose corn syrup and soy oil used in most commercial salad dressings, use olive oil as your dressing and squeeze a lemon over it to add more flavor and a bit of zing. 
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  6. When meals include two or more choices from a list of side dishes, choose veggies and salad as your sides:  You’ll benefit from the added nutrition from the veggies and from not eating as many carbohydrates and artificial additives. If guacamole is an option and the restaurant makes it instead of using a commercial product, choosing the guac is a great way to load up on healthy fats and nutrients. Guacamole is also very filling, so it can help prevent overeating.  
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  7. Ask the server to bring a “to go” box as soon as the meal is served:  Since most restaurant meals are huge, you should be able to box up half your meal before taking the first bite and still wind up feeling full and satisfied. The bonus is that you wind up having tomorrow’s lunch ready to go!
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  8. If ordering cocktails, drink a distilled liquor with soda water instead of beer or wine:  Beer and wine have high amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and yeasts, all of which can wreak havoc with blood sugars, digestion and more. A single shot of distilled liquor (vodka, tequila, rum, etc.) served in soda water with a wedge of lemon or lime will have fewer negative effects. Sticking to a single cocktail will help diminish the negative effects of the alcohol. Better yet, skip the alcohol completely and order water!
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  9. Choose broth-based soups instead of cream soups:  You’ll save on calories, sugars and artificial additives. You may find your digestion also improves.
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  10. Cut yourself some slack:  Assuming you don’t eat out five days a week, give yourself permission to splurge once in a while. When you splurge, enjoy every bite to the fullest and move on without looking back. Sometimes it’s ok to splurge. If you make great choices 90% of the time, a few splurges won’t do irreparable harm. Give yourself permission to splurge and don’t beat yourself up about it!

What suggestions do you have for making healthier choices in restaurants?


For more information about Dr. Pamela Reilly and her innovative approach to wellness and chronic disease, please visit her Facebook page.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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9 Responses to Ten Ways to Make Good Choices While Eating Out

  1. Adanna says:

    These are really awesome tips. I tend to ruin my diet every time I go out so this is all good to know.

  2. Regan says:

    They’re all great tips but I love #7 especially. I would never think to ask for a to go box before a meal but it’s brilliant.

  3. Great tips! I’m going to share your post with my healthy living group!

  4. kungphoo says:

    Since i started eating healthy, i have said the bread on the table is the killer for me.. so i so my best not to eat it.

  5. Herbwifemama says:

    My biggest concern isn’t overeating or calories, but making sure the menu offers something I can eat (no gluten or dairy). When I learned I had to stop eating them, I went to the websites of the restaurants that I most often go to, to see if they had a gluten or dairy free menu. Then, I made my own file of the menu options from my favorite restaurants- it usually came down to one or two things. Then when I go there I don’t have to peruse the menu or stress about what there is that I can or can’t have. And I have a list of a few good restaurant options that I can suggest when I’m out with people too. Having to avoid gluten and dairy naturally cuts down on both carbs and calories as well. 🙂 BTW, Olive Garden offers virtually NOTHING for someone avoiding gluten and dairy.

    • I can relate. I also try to avoid gluten and dairy and know what a challenge it can be. Kudos to you for doing the research first so you don’t have to do things in a hit-or-miss kind of way! (I so agree about Olive Garden!)

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