Smart Ways To Eat Healthy At Restaurants

Going out to eat can feel like a special occasion, but that doesn’t mean people should go overboard. Oftentimes, restaurants have menu options that are unhealthy with no information about the portion size, ingredients, or nutrition facts. For those who want to eat right at restaurants, here are some guilt-free tips.

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Consuming too much sugar is never a good thing and it can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.

two young women drinking soda
Jarritos Mexican Soda/Unsplash
Jarritos Mexican Soda/Unsplash

Restaurants usually have a long drink menu with many sugary options such as soda or lemonade. Instead of picking a sweet drink, try going with water or an unsweetened beverage.

Keep An Eye Out For Portion Sizes

While it’s nice to know that some restaurants are generous with their portion sizes, that shouldn’t be something customers should want.

two young women eating a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Most restaurants serve more than what people would typically eat at home. Instead, try asking for a half portion, split the meal with others, or take some home for leftovers.

Research The Menu Online

Almost every restaurant has a website with access to the menu. There, people can do a bit of research about the menu items before going to the restaurant.

elderly woman using a laptop
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The nutrition information should be listed and some menus even highlight the healthier options. Those who have more questions can always give the restaurant a call.

Put Sauces And Dressings On The Side

Ordering something such as a salad may seem like a healthy option, but many of the calories and fat come from dressings and sauces.

Salad with a side of devilled eggs. Slices of white and yellow deviled eggs sit on a plate with a small cup of dressing
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

The best thing to do when ordering something that comes with dressing or sauce is to ask for it on the side. That way it’s easier to control how much is going on the entrée.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Making A Special Request

Not every restaurant has a menu that is set in stone. Oftentimes, a dish will come with ingredients or side dishes that can be removed or replaced.

waitress at ihop serving a family
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

For example, if someone orders a salmon that comes with mashed potatoes, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter to replace the mashed potatoes for some veggies.

Say No To Dessert

Many sit-down restaurants will usually have the waiter ask guests if they would like any dessert after they finish their meal.

A woman eating a custard in a restaurant
Xulio Villarino/Cover/Getty Images
Xulio Villarino/Cover/Getty Images

While getting a dessert can be tempting, it can really pack on the fat, carbs, calories, and sugar. It’s usually best to kindly refuse and instead have some fruit or a low-calorie snack back at home.

Consider Skipping The Entrée

Oftentimes, people will order an entrée for themselves at restaurants. Entrées tend to have a larger portion size with more calories.

Shrimp cocktail served with lemon and cocktail sauce
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Instead, look at the appetizer section of the menu and order one of them for your main course. These are smaller bites that may fill people up just as much as they need. They also tend to be cheaper than entrées too.

Eat Something Before Going Out

It actually isn’t a good idea to go to a restaurant starving. This can make it easier to go overboard when ordering food.

people sharing some celery and carrots
Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images
Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

In order to prevent this, try eating a healthy snack before going out. People will be able to get something in their stomachs to curb their appetite.

Don’t Reach For The Pre-Dinner Carbs

It’s quite common for restaurants to leave out a basket of bread or chips before a meal. This causes guests to fill up before they’ve even ordered their drinks.

bread in a basket
Jasmin Schreiber/Unsplash
Jasmin Schreiber/Unsplash

The best thing to do is skip the unneeded carbs. Try sending them back to the waiter if you get easily tempted.

Pay Attention To Wording On The Menu

Menus can sometimes be deceptive with their wording. Many of the terms help describe how the dish was cooked.

a menu with some photos
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Usually, if something is grilled, broiled, or steamed, it will likely be one of the healthier options. However, the terms fried, breaded, smothered, rich, and creamy will often be in dishes with more fat, carbs, and calories.

How To Stop Eating

When eating a delicious meal, it can be really hard to stop yourself at the right moment. Having a big portion is a really easy way to cause weight gain.

man and woman eating lunch
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Something that can help is bringing a mint and popping it in your mouth when you start feeling yourself getting full.

Drink Plenty Of Water

Water is a great zero-calorie drink option at a restaurant, but it shouldn’t be forgotten after the meal comes.

high view of people eating with water glasses
Dan Gold/Unsplash
Dan Gold/Unsplash

It’s important to continue drinking a lot of water with the food because it can slow down your appetite. This helps your brain think you’re full even before your plate is empty.

Make A Reservation

Before going out to eat it is a good idea to call the restaurant to make a reservation. Not only is this convenient, but it can be a life-saver.

a hostess talking on the phone at a restaurant
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Having to wait a long time to be seated can cause people to become a lot hungrier than they originally were, which makes them order more food.

Buffets Aren’t The Greatest Idea

Buffets can be a fun place to go to eat, especially if you have family or friends who are picky eaters. However, it can be extremely difficult to manage a healthy meal at a buffet.

person getting food at a buffet
Ulysse Pointcheval/Unsplash
Ulysse Pointcheval/Unsplash

The unlimited amount of food can be very tempting. It’s best to use a small plate and fill it mainly with salad or vegetables.

Plan An Activity For After The Meal

It’s common for people to feel a bit sluggish and tired after dining out at a restaurant. This makes it a good reason to plan something for afterward.

couple walking their dog at the beach
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Physical activities such as walking on the beach or going dancing at a club can be a fun way to work off the calories.

Take Your Time

One of the most common causes for overeating is that people did not stop to take a break between bites.

friends eating at a restaurant
Stefano Guidi/Getty Images
Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

It’s important to take your time while eating to give your stomach a rest. Some things you can do are drinking water, talking with friends or family, or excusing yourself to the bathroom.

Be The First Person To Order

According to Healthline, people tend to mimic each other subconsciously in social situations. This is especially critical to know when ordering food.

A waitress takes the orders from customers at a restaurant
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If someone in your party is set on ordering an unhealthy option, it could cause you to do the same. Try ordering first, so you won’t be tempted.

Dressing Up Actually Helps

Even if you’re going out to eat at a casual restaurant, there are some health benefits to dressing up. Fancy clothing can influence how people feel about a meal.

a couple dressed up at a restaurant black and white photo
Kurt Hutton/Getty Images
Kurt Hutton/Getty Images

It makes it seem as if it’s a formal occasion, so people will be more inclined to go for a healthy or light option.

Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean It’s Healthy

Restaurants will often label which foods don’t have gluten on their menu. Just because something doesn’t have gluten doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.

Gluten free wraps and bagels
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There are many gluten-free options such as pasta, pizza, bagels, and chips that have a ton of fat, calories, and carbs. The extra ingredients to make up for the lack of gluten usually cause this.

Pay Attention To The Music

Something that may go unnoticed at a restaurant is the music. Places that play upbeat music such as pop and rock will make people eat faster.

people eating at an outdoor restaurant
Paul Harris/Getty Images
Paul Harris/Getty Images

This leads customers to sucking in more air as they eat to become bloated. Instead, find restaurants with lighter music such as jazz or classical because this type of music helps people eat less.