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How to Choose Healthy Options off a Menu

Author: Cara Walsh

August 11, 2014

How to Choose Healthy Options off a Menu

Author: Cara Walsh

August 11, 2014


Dining out can be fun, but it can sometimes be detrimental to healthy eating resolutions as well. Between large portion sizes, creamy sauces and the general high calorie content of restaurant meals, eating out can knock even the most determined healthy eater off the wagon. But don’t worry; you don’t have to skip the restaurant! Smart dining out is all about making the right choices.

 Think Ahead!

  • Get familiar with the restaurant’s menu.
  • Look at the restaurants’ menu online.
  • Decide what to order beforehand to avoid temptation of unhealthy meal choices.

For Starters…

  • Avoid high calorie appetizers or starters such as bread, chips and salsa, creamy dips etc.
  • Ask the server not to bring bread or chips to the table.
  • Drink 1-2 glasses of water before your food arrives. Water will fill you up and steer you away from overeating.
  • Limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage before ordering. This will prevent you from making poor food choices due to intoxication.

What do I order?

  • Look for “healthy choices” or “lighter fares” listed on the menu.Look for “healthy choices” or “lighter fares” listed on the menu. However, always read the ingredients list on your own to determine if it is a healthy choice for you.
  • Watch your calories! If they are listed on the menu, search for a lower calorie option. Maybe one that comes with a side salad instead of fries or potatoes.
  • Avoid foods described as buttery, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, au gratin (with cheese).
  • Order foods described as steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, stir-fried, or roasted.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat such as seafood, chicken, or lean red meats.
  • Ask for steamed veggies or a side salad instead of fries or potatoes.
  • Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.
  • Ask your server about ingredients and preparation methods for dishes you are not familiar with.  
  • Ask your server what healthy substitutions are available.

How much should I eat?

  • Ask the restaurant for a to-go container with your meal so you can automatically split your meal in half and save the rest for another meal.
  • Share a meal with another diner.
  • Opt for lunch size portions instead of dinner portions.

 Craving something sweet?

  • Desserts can be as high in calories as an entree. Don’t overindulge and have dessert every time!
  • When ordering dessert opt for lighter options such as sorbets or fresh fruit.

About the Author:

Cara Walsh
Counselor at The Carmel Mountain Ranch Medifast Weight Control Center
Cara Walsh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Weight Control Counselor. Cara received her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from San Diego State University and completed her dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian through the Utah State University. Cara is currently completing her Masters in Dietetic Administration through Utah State University. Cara has always had a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She loves to focus on how food can heal and provide nutrition-while tasting delicious. Cara thrives on helping others reach their full potential nutritionally. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to Pilates and running the boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean with her son and husband.

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