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How to make healthier choices when dining out
Jan. 5, 2023—Whether you're trying to lose weight or you just want to eat well, preparing and eating most of your meals at home makes it easier to choose the foods that support your healthy goals.
But if you enjoy an occasional dinner out or find yourself in the drive-thru lane on a busy day, dining out doesn't have to mean giving up on healthy choices.
These ideas from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association can help.
Look beyond the greasy bacon cheeseburger with fries. These days, most restaurants (even fast-food places) offer healthier menu options. Here are a few healthier entrees and sides you might find:
- Skinless chicken breast.
- Broth-based soups with veggies.
- Veggie sides.
- Fresh fruit slices on the side.
- Sandwiches with lean, unprocessed meat and veggies.
- A small burrito with beans and lots of vegetables.
- Veggie burger with extra lettuce, onions and tomato.
Downsize your portions. Restaurant portions are often large. Choose the smaller version. For example, if you want a hamburger, order one with a single patty instead of a double or a triple.
Avoid fried foods. Skip the crispy fries, onion rings, or fried fish or chicken—and their fat and calories. Check the menu for foods that are baked, grilled, steamed, sautéed or roasted.
Ask for condiments on the side. Make this request for things like butter, salad dressing and sauces. This way, you control how much of the condiments (and calories) you consume.
Enjoy unsweetened drinks. Consider zero-calorie water (try a lemon or lime wedge for an interesting flavor), diet soda, or low-fat or nonfat milk instead of sugary sodas or teas.
Request a healthy substitution. For example, ask for a salad, fruit cup or veggie dish instead of fries. Try these simple swaps to make your favorite meals healthier at home too.
Go for whole grains. Ask for whole-wheat, instead of white, sandwich bread or pasta and brown, instead of white, rice.
Know before you go. Many restaurants and fast-food places have their menus online. They may even list nutrition information.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Incorporating MyPlate at Fast Food Restaurants." https://www.eatright.org/food/planning/away-from-home/incorporating-myplate-at-fast-food-restaurants.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. "Making Healthy Choices at Fast Food Restaurants." https://familydoctor.org/making-healthy-choices-fast-food-restaurants/.
- American Diabetes Association. "Make Healthy Choices at a Fast-Food Restaurant." https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/healthy-choices-fast-food.
- American Heart Association. "4 Tips to Eat Healthier When Ordering Takeout or Food Delivery." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/takeout-tips.
- American Heart Association. "Dining Out Doesn't Mean Ditch Your Diet." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/dining-out-doesnt-mean-ditch-your-diet.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Healthy Eating." https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/tips_dine_out.htm.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Food Portions: Choosing Just Enough for You." https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/just-enough-food-portions#out.
The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.