Healthy Tips for Eating Out

eatinghealthyout-PROOFWhether you are eating out at a restaurant or at the UC Davis Dining Commons, there are many options for good tasting foods; often including foods you may never make at home and in quantities you would not usually prepare for yourself. Sometimes this can make it challenging to create a healthy meal. There are also positives to eating out. Visiting a new restaurant presents the exciting opportunity to try new meals that may even inspire you in your own kitchen. Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your restaurant meal will be both enjoyable and healthy.

Remember MyPlate to balance your choices:

  • If possible, try a taste of the meal first before choosing an entrée.
  • If your options are pasta, potatoes, rice, and bread, choose one from this group. The foods you didn’t choose today will most likely be offered again tomorrow.
  • Include a source of protein in every meal. Make a salad into a meal by adding beans, cottage cheese, or tofu. Consider pairing grilled chicken breast with some veggies or grains, or as a lean protein addition to a salad.
  • Opt for low-fat condiments such as mustard, tomato sauce, seasoned vinegar, low fat salad dressing, and fat free cream cheese. Use high fat condiments (like mayo, gravy, creamy sauces, salad dressing, and cream cheese) sparingly.
  • Balance is key! If you choose a high fat main dish, choose something light (like fruit) for dessert. If you choose a lighter entree (like grilled chicken breast salad with low fat dressing), enjoy a higher fat dessert. If you had dessert at lunch, skip it at dinner.

Ask the waiter or server how items are prepared or served. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, the staff is happy to provide them for you.

  • Substitute egg whites into your omelet or scramble at breakfast and use plain yogurt instead of sour cream on breakfast potatoes. Top with salsa for added flavor.
  • Ask for light salad dressings such as lemon juice or olive oil and vinegar.
  • Ask the server to “hold the mayo” and ask to put sauces, salad dressings, and other extras on the side. If you choose to use them, apply sparingly or dip your fork in the dressing/sauce to get a tiny flavor boost with each bite.
  • Ask for a side green salad, steamed vegetable, or fruit cup in place of the cole slaw, potato salad, or fries that normally comes with it.

Most restaurant meals come in larger portions than you would normally eat if you made a meal at home. Ask for smaller portions, or take steps to control portions on your own.

  • Have a light snack before you go, such as a piece of fruit, a small carton of yogurt, or a small handful of nuts.
  • Remove your plate as soon as you feel full. Remember that it takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.
  • Share a large entree or dessert, or consider putting half of the portion in a to-go box for later.
  • Drink a tall glass of water before you start eating and/or several glasses during your meal.
  • Enjoy a cup of herbal tea at the end of your meal as a substitute for dessert.

Do you have any strategies to improve the health of your meal when you eat at the dining commons, or visit your favorite restaurants? Share by leaving a reply below!

8 thoughts on “Healthy Tips for Eating Out

  1. This is great advice! It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the excitement of eating at a new restaurant that I forget how over portioned or high in saturated fats restaurant meals can be. There really is no need to overeat or eat unhealthy to enjoy yourself on a night out. I always try to eat fruit or drink water before going out to curb my appetite. And having herbal tea after a meal instead of dessert is also really effective!

  2. It is always a challenge to remain healthy when eating out, especially when portions tend to be larger than usual. I’m definitely going to try some of the tips you mentioned to avoid over eating the next time I eat out.

  3. Awesome tips! These are things not many people think about!

    I personally like to ask for a togo box and start packing half of my plate BEFORE I start eating. That way I won’t overeat, and I’ll have plenty of leftovers!

  4. I love your tips! I’m someone who likes variety so i always have the urge to try everything. One thing that I do to keep from overeating is that i try alittle of everything. When i eat at the DC, I would often ask for ‘half a scoop’ at a couple stations or ‘just the meat.’ That’s better than eating 3 entrees and upsetting my stomach.

  5. I like how these tips are budget-friendly! It might sound bad, but I usually eat a small snack before heading out to save some money and have leftovers for the next day. There are a lot of new healthy tips that I didn’t really think of before that I’ll try! It’s always fun going out for fun and now I know some simple tips to save money and feel better about healthy substitutions while eating out. I’ll share these tips with my friends too! 🙂

  6. I only eat out when I am really busy. >< I could really use some of the tips your suggested to eat more healthy out because it is so hard to eat healthy outside.. I will try to balance out between heavy entree and light dessert. Thank you.

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