Dining Out Doesn't Mean Ditching Your Diet

Friends dining out

Eating out with friends and family can be a delicious and enjoyable experience. Let’s face it: Someone is cooking for you, and someone else is doing the dishes. So, what’s the downside? One, you’re not in control of how the meal is prepared or what ingredients are used. So, there could be a lot more saturated fats, sodium and added sugars in that restaurant meal than you want. There are, however, healthy options when dining out — you just need to know what to look for. 

10 tips for eating out: 

  • Search for it. Take advantage of living in the information age. Go online and look up the restaurant’s menu. Decide what meal you want before you go. Many restaurants and fast-food chains have nutrition information on their websites, so it makes it even easier to find the healthier choices. 
  • Look for clue words. The menu may have “healthy” designations or symbols, or key words in the names of some items, such as light, fresh, fit, vegetarian and skinny. These words usually indicate those meals are the healthier options.

  • Simply ask. Ask your server or even the chef about ingredients, preparation methods or substitutions available for meals you’re interested in eating.

  • Just say no. Resist the upsell and freebies. The cocktails and appetizers can be tempting, but they can add saturated fat, sodium, added sugar and/or calories. You don’t have to accept the free bread and butter or chips and salsa either. Tell the server ahead of time to skip your table so you’re not tempted to eat the complimentary extras once they get to your table.

  • Color your plate. Scan the menu for colorful fruits and vegetables that you can add as sides or substitutes for other ingredients in your dish.

  • Have it your way. What if you just can’t find a healthy option? Get creative. Ask the server if your meal can be prepared to order. If so, combine side vegetables or healthy ingredients from different dishes. Most restaurant chefs want to satisfy their diners, so ask what’s possible.

  • Check your oil. Ask about butter, solid fats and cooking oils used in the kitchen, and request that healthier nontropical  vegetable oils such as canola, corn or sunflower oil be used. These oils are lower in saturated fats than tropical oils such as coconut or palm. Swap the solid fats, like butter, for liquid oil. 

  • Keep it on the side. Request that butter, cheese, toppings, salad dressings, sauces and gravies be served on the side. This allows you control how much you use. 

  • Rightsize instead of supersize. If the portions are large, share an entree or set aside half to take home before you start eating. Split the extras like the appetizers, fries and desserts.

Here are some healthy swaps:

Instead of:


bacon, sausage and fatty, salty meats skinless chicken, fish, lean meat
white bread, white rice and white pasta whole-wheat bread, whole-grain rice and whole-grain pasta
cream-based or cheese soups broth-based soup with lots of veggies
deep-fried, pan-fried, extra crispy, creamed, stuffed
grilled, sauteed, roasted, steamed, baked, poached
french fries baked potato or side salad
refried beans pintos or black beans
sour cream, queso guacamole, pico de gallo 
salty sauces including soy, teriyaki, cocktail and au jus light sauces flavored with herbs, spices, vinegar and wine
all-you-can-eat, supersize, buffet  a la carte, light menu, salad bar 
traditional desserts, cookies, ice cream  fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts 
soda, sweet tea, sugary cocktails  water, unsweetened iced tea, 100% juice, diet soda, seltzer, spritzers 


Nationally Supported by

Egg Nutrition Center

Nationally Supported by
Egg Nutrition Center

Eggland's Best

Nationally Supported by
Eggland's Best