6 Tips For Dining Out Healthfully

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Whether you’re enjoying a business lunch, eating dinner with a special someone or zipping through the fast food line to ensure the kids get fed before bed, dining out is as American as apple pie. Unfortunately, most restaurant dining presents a major challenge for anyone who is trying to slim down or follow a healthy lifestyle.

“Many restaurants focus on serving dishes that excite the taste buds. This is usually done by adding lots of fat, salt, and sugar,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Erin Beattie.

The good news: Eating out doesn’t have to be a dietary disaster. Whether you dine in a restaurant or order take out, Beattie offers these six suggestions for eating healthier away from home:

  1. Plan ahead. Don’t arrive to a restaurant starving. Eating a fiber-rich snack before dining out will keep you from diving headfirst into the bread basket. You can also check the restaurant’s menu online for nutrition information ahead of time so you can plan your order in advance. Another tip: Order first if you can. This way, you’re less likely to add on fries or other nutrient-poor foods after hearing your friend order them.
  2. Pay attention to menu clues. When scanning a new menu, steer clear of items with words like “fried,” “breaded” and “creamy” and seek out dishes that are baked, broiled, grilled or steamed instead.
  3. Don’t be afraid to customize your order. Double up on nutrient-dense powerhouses like broccoli, spinach and salad greens or order a healthy side item. Order extra vegetables with any entrée. Request less salt and oil. Even better than less oil? Ask for steamed instead. Other tips: Request sauces and dressings on the side. Order pizza, pastas, and salads with light cheese.
  4. Strive for balance. If you’re dining out for a special occasion, you don’t have to bypass a dish you really love. Instead, balance your meal: Fill up on a nutrient-rich side salad to start (with the dressing on the side), order a side of steamed veggies or choose fruit in lieu of fries. Then eat less of your beloved entrée. Share it with your dining companion or pack up half for tomorrow’s lunch.
  5. Watch portion sizes. Most restaurants go overboard on portions, with some dishes boasting enough calories for two or even three diners. In addition to choosing lighter dishes, set aside an appropriate portion and vow not to let your fork venture over to the other side of the plate. Better yet, ask for a to-go container in advance. Then, as soon as your meal arrives, pack half away to take home with you. Or split an entrée with a friend.
  6. Slow down. One reason Americans overeat is because time is at a premium. We try to shovel in as much as possible in the limited time we’ve set aside to nourish our bodies. Trouble is, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to receive the message that the stomach is full. If you learn to eat slowly, chances are good you’ll fill up on less food.


Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.

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Erin Beattie, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist with Henry Ford Health System who offers one-on-one consultations through the Center for Integrative Medicine and the Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, along with working in the community through Henry Ford’s Generation with Promise Program.

Categories: EatWell