Restaurants 101: Key Tips for Healthy Decision-making

Making healthy decisions at restaurants

Eating at home is the best way to control calories and eat healthy. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat at a restaurant if you’re trying to manage your weight. Your next meal out doesn’t have to tip the calorie scale or leave you feeling guilty the next day. Make healthy choices simply by planning ahead and using some of these helpful tools.

Navigating Restaurants When Weight-loss or Management is Your Goal

Tip 1: Be a Part of the Decision Making

Before going out to eat, help your group decide where to go. This may give you some control as to what goes on your plate. Suggest restaurants that you know have menus with lighter and tasty options you can choose from. The food selection doesn’t always have to be pizzas, burgers, bar food or other “less than light” choices.

Tip 2: Research the Menu

If you know where you’re eating ahead of time, look up the menu online. Try deciding what you’ll eat in advance so temptation doesn’t derail your decision making before you order. You will feel confident in your selection and won’t take up a lot of time with your server.

Tip 3: Scan the Whole Menu

Carefully consider the whole menu before you order. Your go-to doesn’t always have to be salad, as those often have high-calorie dressings and toppings. Look for options that have whole ingredients and less processing. Most menus these days list calorie counts and ingredients used, so don’t forget to scan the details.

Tip 4: Don’t Feel Bad about Making Requests

Part of eating out is the customer service experience. If you want to modify your order within reason, do not be ashamed to do this. You can ask for certain ingredients to be taken off or swapped for healthier ones. For example, you can request a bun-less burger or one that comes in a lettuce wrap or whole-grain bun.

Tip 5: Ask for a Water Glass

Water helps manage your appetite. Rather than choosing sugary or alcoholic drinks or ordering greasy appetizers, sip on water while you wait for your food to arrive. Spice it up with a wedge of lime, lemon or orange.

Tip 6: Box-up Half Your Plate

After your food arrives at the table, ask for a to-go container if you get a big portion size. Box-up half the food and put it away before you begin eating what’s in front of you. This will help you practice moderation and portion control.

Tip 7: Eat Slow and Enjoy the Atmosphere

We often eat fast at restaurants because we’re hungry and excited. Try to eat at a slower pace intentionally, chewing every bite. Enjoy the company you’re with and take-in the sounds and scenery of the restaurant. It’s about the experience, not just the food.


Eating out can be a fun and enjoyable experience. You don’t have to feel guilty about skipping a night with food made at home. Just prepare for the outing ahead of time and consider the whole menu before you order. Don’t be afraid to customize your meal to meet your needs and wants. Finally, savor the meal and enjoy the experience of getting a change of pace!

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