Healthy Dining Tips



Restaurant meals typically contain as much as 60 percent more calories than the same dishes prepared at home. You can sabotage your healthy eating and weight loss goals if you don’t make wise choices. Here are some tips that will make you restaurant savvy:

1. Know Before You Go
Go online and check the restaurant’s menu and nutrition information and decide ahead of time what you will order. Not every restaurant has this option, but many do. If you tend to frequent spots over and over, know the healthy picks at your top five places.

2. Look for the “au naturale” Foods
Look for foods in their natural state and load up. Foods like fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, filling fiber and antioxidants. When ordering, fill your plate with these foods and then. .

3. Think Balance
Studies show that people who completely shun their favorite foods when dining out tend to binge on them later. Order grilled chicken or fish and veggies as your entre and then indulge in a few (not too many) French fries. Breakfast out at your favorite diner could include a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of fresh fruit and one or two strips of bacon.

4. Pay Attention to Your Body
Studies also show that oftentimes people overeat more when they are dining out than at home. The oversized restaurant portions don’t help. Pay attention to the clues your body is giving you. As soon as you start to feel full, put down the fork or whatever you’re eating—stop eating and check in with your fullness barometer. This is the one time you can ignore your mother—don’t clean your plate!

5. Ask for Substitutions
Do you love shrimp? Instead of having it made in an alfredo sauce, ask for shrimp marinara or have it tossed with garlic and olive oil. In restaurants, most dishes with sauces can be substituted. Pasta is a refined carbohydrate which can cause blood sugar spikes and weight gain. Ask the server for only one cup instead of a heaping mound or better yet, substitute it for a veggie like sautéed spinach. Instead of mac and cheese as a side, ask for a cup of vegetables or a second salad.

6. Order Dressing on the Side
Get in the habit of ordering dressing on the side when you order salad. Watch out for high sugar dressings. For example, typically balsamic vinaigrette has significantly less sugar than raspberry vinaigrette. Ask the waiter how the dressing is made. They oftentimes know.

7. Make Vegetables and Fruits the Stars of Your Plate
The USDA MyPlate recommendations are that half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Make them the focal point of your meal instead of the grains and protein. Order a smaller cut of meat and load up on health boosting fruits and veggies.

8. Limit your Bread
If your meal would not be complete without bread, decide to have only one piece with one pat of butter. Some margarines contain hydrogenated oils, so butter is also the safer choice. Just limit yourself to one pat. Veto the higher fat sweet breads and muffins. If you can’t eat just one piece, tell the server not to bring the basket.

10. Condiment your Sandwich Well
Instead of mayonnaise, ask that mustard or a light oil and vinegar dressing be put on your sandwich.

11. Go Halfsies
Because restaurant portions are so large, ask the server to place ½ of the portion into a take out container prior to serving the meal—voila, two meals for the price of one. You can also split the meal with a friend.

12. Share Desserts
If there’s a dessert that you really want to try, order one along with several spoons. Research has shown that the first few tastes of something are what give us the most pleasure. We may curb our sweet tooth by having a few bites and not overdoing it.

13. Drink Wisely
Skip soft drinks and opt for water, tap or sparkling, to avoid lots of extra calories and sugar. If you enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine with your meal, it’s best to stick with just one carefully chosen drink. A quick google search ahead of time will help you choose the drink that best suits your health goals. For example, if you have blood sugar issues, it’s wise to stay away from sugary drinks like sangria or dessert wines. (This last tip came from my friend, Deb Lembach, who critiques my writing before it gets to you. Thank goodness for Deb! Look for my article, “You are What You Drink Too,” in next month’s Nutrition Now Newsletter).

If you are restaurant savvy, eating out doesn’t have to sabotage your health goals! Enjoy not cooking (I ALWAYS do), but be smart.


  1. Avatar

    Posted on July 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm by RoxanneNoble

    I could really use some help getting the meals i can eat clear in my head
    May we make an appointment together?
    I have Type ! diabetes
    heart disease and Level 3 kidney disease
    so I follow a low glucose , no salt , low phosphate,
    low fat diet
    I am sick of eating lettuce and needs help putting meals together especially dinner
    Thank you
    Roxanne Noble

  2. Lindy Ford

    Posted on July 31, 2016 at 8:02 am by Lindy Ford

    Hey Roxanne,

    Please give me at call at 910.899.7954. or email me at:

    You DO NOT need to eat a low fat diet. That is OLD science and isn’t sustainable. Please call me! My best, lindy ford