Our Secrets For Navigating Restaurant Menus

a cafe table set with lunch items

If there’s one challenge to maintaining a well-balanced, nutritious diet, it’s eating out. Whether for work, travel or convenience, restaurant food is incredibly high in calories and can derail even the best of diets. Check out our tips for navigating restaurant menus so you can stay on track.

How to Eat Healthy While Dining Out

Before You Arrive At The Restaurant, Determine Your Simple Carb Priorities

Plan to pick either bread, dessert, or alcohol. Limiting yourself to just one of these simple carb categories will allow you to enjoy yourself and indulge a bit without going overboard.

Skip The Pre-Dinner Drink — But Be Sure To Have A Full Glass Of Water

While enjoying a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine before a meal is customary, alcohol lowers your willpower, and you’ll be much more likely to overindulge after a drink or two. If you’re going to have a drink, plan to have it with your meal.

Additionally, before you even look at the menu, make sure to drink a full glass of water. This allows you to approach the menu feeling a little bit satiated, rather than with a cavernous growling stomach. This limits the “eyes are bigger than the stomach” effect!

Ask The Server Not To Bring Any Bread

Restaurant bread baskets are almost impossible to resist and full of totally empty calories. Avoid the temptation entirely and just as you sit down to the table, kindly ask your server not to bring a bread basket or any pre-meal snacks.

Order All Dressings On The Side

Ordering a salad? Ask for the dressing on the side so that you can better control the portion. Better yet, ask if your salad can be served with a side of oil and vinegar — it’ll cut out extraneous sugars that often lurk in dressings.

Split A Meal With Another Guest (Or Save Half For Lunch Tomorrow!)

Many (but not all) restaurant serving sizes are well beyond recommended portion sizes. Do your research before the meal, and if it seems like a restaurant has larger or oversized portions, consider splitting a meal with another guest — or boxing up half and saving it for the next day!

Keep Your Plate 75% Vegetables, 25% Lean Protein

Just like when you’re cooking for yourself, plan to keep your plate three-quarters veggies and one-quarter protein! At most restaurants, you’ll still be able to find some nutrient-packed options. Look for lean proteins like fish and poultry, greens and beans.

By preparing yourself with the tips above when you eat out, you’ll maintain a healthy balance and stay on track. Happy menu navigating!


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