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7 Stay-Healthy Strategies When You Dine Out

Jill Castle

Family Cooking

Dining out as part of a healthy lifestyle is often difficult for most people.  But, it doesn’t have to be impossible.  Try some of the tactics below the next time you are at a restaurant.  Your body, and your taste buds, will thank you!

Cancel Your Membership to the Clean Plate Club. Most restaurants, with very few exceptions, serve at least double or triple the recommended portions for every food item.  Divide your plate in half before eating, and take the rest home for a second meal.

The Lighter Side of Lunch Portions. Many restaurants offer smaller lunch-sized portions or “small plates” in addition to the full-sized meals.  But, they may not offer this up as an option unless you request it.  Be sure to ask if a smaller portion is available.  Just keep in mind that it still may be more food than recommended for one meal.

Modify Your Meals. Invisible fats, such as butter and oil, are often added to dishes without the diner even knowing it.  Even vegetables are not immune.  Don’t be afraid to be a little picky when it comes to how your food is prepared.  Butter and oil can be left off of vegetables and meats without sacrificing flavor.


Don’t Fall Into the Salad Trap. This menu item can be somewhat of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Salads are often among the most fat-laden items on most restaurant menus. You can’t make a meal healthy simply by putting lettuce under it. The toppings make all the difference. And they can add up quickly, especially if creamy or other high fat dressings are used. At the very least, dressing should be served on the side and toppings chosen in moderation.

Don’t Blow it with Beverages. It is all too easy to double the calories in a meal by drinking soda instead of water, especially with unlimited refills. Keep in mind that water is a beverage, and soda is a treat that you drink.

Avoid the Appetizers (or eat your own). Free baskets of food aren’t free of calories. Pass on high fat items, or enjoy a little if you like. Having a small snack of fruit or nuts before leaving home is also a great way to control poor choices caused by hunger.

Be Careful with Condiments. These “little” additions can pack a big punch. If used inappropriately, they have the ability to turn a healthy meal into an unhealthy one. But, chosen wisely and used sparingly, they can be wonderful flavor enhancers. Try low-fat options, like mustard or salsa.

Healthy eating in any situation is simpler with the right tools. Knowing what to do and how to do it is important, but actually doing it is the key. Even small changes can add up over time, so take action now.

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Jill Castle

Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.