On The Table

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Ten Restaurant Tips for Making Healthier Choices

We've put together a list of ten helpful ways to make smarter and healthier choices when eating at restaurants.

Ten Restaurant Tips for Making Healthier Choices

The environment plays a huge role on our food choices, especially with the enticing smells and sights of restaurant foods. Deciphering through the menu to find healthful foods can be tough, but saying "no" to the cheesy bacon burger can be tougher. Fortunately, sticking to your health goals and still enjoying a nice restaurant meal will be easy with these 10 tips when eating out.

Before Going to the Restaurant

1. Utilize Phone Apps

With technological advances, restaurants and mobile applications have been able to pair up for a convenient nutritional resource. When scoping out restaurant options, look into what healthy choices are offered. The smells of the restaurant can persuade you to make poor choices and having some sort of game plan can weaken impulses.

2. Check Out the Menu Online

Phone apps mainly target the larger chain restaurants. If going to a local eatery, try a simple internet search for the menu. Unfortunately, most menus do not contain the nutritional facts the way a phone application does. Scoping out the menu prior, though, can still facilitate a game plan and guidance.

Prior to the Main Course

3. Order Water

Start the meal off right by making good choices. Water is ultimately the best answer to the question, "What can I get you to drink?" Consuming a glass or two has the ability to fill the stomach and decrease the opportunity to overeat. Soda and alcoholic beverages can be filled with calories and sugar. If an alcoholic drink is desired, skip the fancy, umbrella drinks and opt for a light beer or glass of wine. Remember, dietary guidelines recommend one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

4. Order a Side Salad

Ordering a side salad can be your first healthy food choice. Like water, a salad filled with veggies can reduce the risk of overeating. However, people often automate salads as healthy but they can be a sneaky source of calories and fat. To keep both in check, ask for light cheese and a lighter, olive oil-based dressing. Instead of dousing the salad in dressing, ask for it on the side and dip the greens into the dressing with your fork.

5. Skip the Free Extras

Italian and Mexican restaurants are notorious for free bread and butter, breadsticks, or chips and salsa. Although tempting, they are packed with calories, possible trans fats, and sodium. One breadstick can pile on an additional 250 prior to your actual meal. And who can only eat one…?

The Main Event

6. Ask for a To-Go Box

First and foremost, ask for a to-go box with the main meal. Even if the meal was filled with healthy whole grains, lean proteins, and veggies, the portions of most restaurant meals can be up to two or three servings. Halve the entree once it comes out; eat one half while boxing and taking home the other. Some restaurants will even half and box the entree before the meal even hits the table.

7. Order Appetizers

Not in addition to a main entree, but in place of. Unlike standard restaurant meals, appetizers maintain a proper portion. Avoid the appetizer sampler filled with fried choices and look for veggie-based or high protein choices. Portions of appetizers can vary from place-to-place. If one appetizer did not seem like enough, don't be afraid to choose another to share among others or take part home.

8. Look for "Light" Options

Restaurants are taking strides to offer healthier choices to their customers. Lighter options often include lean proteins and fresh vegetables. If nutrition content is lacking on the menu, the "light" section may be the best area to find the nutritional information as they commonly have claims like "Meals Under 500 Calories."

9. Personalize Your Meal

Don't be shy when it comes to ordering. If a chicken breast is fried, do not hesitate to order it grilled. It is important to be weary on the food preparation. Although sautéed veggies are a better option compared to fried green beans, high amounts of oil may be used in the sauté pan. Asking for and adjusting the preparation method can ultimately save high amounts of calories and fat.

10. Ditch the Dessert

As if turning down a juicy, double-patty hamburger wasn't hard enough… Ditching the dessert can save hundreds of calories and unwanted fat and sugar. If a sweet tooth is dominating, ask for in-season fruit as several restaurants have a fruit mixture as a side item or on a kid's menu. A small piece of dark chocolate or peppermint can also alleviate that annoying, hankering sweet teeth.