How To Make Healthier Choices – The Key to Dining Out

How to Make Healthier Choices

Curating a healthy lifestyle revolves around making smart, health-conscious choices every day regarding the food you consume. While it’s perfectly fine to treat yourself and enjoy some of your favorite foods and desserts, knowing how to make healthier choices when dining out should be at the forefront of these choices — especially when you’re dining out.

Of course, most people dine out for birthdays and special occasions, to socialize, and to try out new cuisines. If you know how to make healthier choices when dining out the challenge to stick to a healthy eating plan is more doable. Being prepared helps you avoid the regret associated with overindulgence. Plus, the quality and type of ingredients used vary from restaurant to restaurant.

Fortunately, it’s not all that difficult to make healthy food choices when dining out. In this article, we’ll cover some of the top tips and more for healthy dining experiences, regardless of the occasion.

Health Dining Tips For Your Next Outing

Depending on your overall health goals, making healthy food choices when dining out will look different to everyone. Some people are starting out on new fitness journeys while others are managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Others simply want to make smarter choices for their overall wellness.

Stay in Shape after the Great Meal

Never feel guilty after eating out and enjoying a great meal. There is a way to make sure that your weight maintenance stays in tact. Just stop by the gym or hop on your stationary bike or treadmill. You’d be surprised by how many calories you burn in just 15-20 minutes a day or at least three times a week. This way you have your cake and eat it too,right?

Regardless of your reason, these tips will help you create a healthier dining experience each time you visit a restaurant or get takeaway:

Follow the BOSS Rule 

BOSS stands for butter, oil, salt, and sugar. Even restaurants with healthy food options still like to use these main ingredients in excess to enhance flavor. Unfortunately, these ingredients also enhance caloric intake —and not in a good way.

The goal here isn’t to completely eliminate flavor. It’s to control how much of these types of ingredients you consume. So, when ordering out, make sure you’re asking for your meal to be prepared without these ingredients, if possible.

For example, ask for your vegetables to be steamed rather than sauteed. It’s also a good idea to inquire about the type of oil used for cooking. If possible, you can request that any refined vegetable oils be switched out for extra virgin olive oil.

Plan Ahead 

If you’re meeting friends at a new restaurant for the first time and aren’t sure if they’ll have healthy meal options, check out the menu online ahead of time. This way, you can see what they have to offer and potentially what swaps can be made.

If you have a chronic condition or food sensitivity, you can always call ahead and ask how the restaurant can accommodate you. Most of the time, they’ll be more than happy to keep you in mind!

Avoid Filling Up on Drinks 

Soft drinks, cocktails, smoothies, and other drinks can turn a modest meal into an absolute trainwreck calorie-wise. It’s always best to stick with water when dining out, and you can dress it up with a lemon, lime, or even a cucumber for flavor.

Of course, if you’re not planning to be as strict, a cocktail or glass of wine can’t hurt. Just steer clear of mixing dangerous combinations like fried food and milkshakes!

Pay Attention to the Cooking Methods 

Grilled chicken is healthy, while fried chicken is not. The same goes for leaner cuts of red meat compared to processed meats. So, for healthier protein options when dining out, pay more attention to the dishes that involve roasting, pan-searing, baking, steaming, poaching, and grilling.

Be Wary of Portion Size 

The downfall for most people looking for a healthy dining experience is portion size. The average restaurant delivers two to three times the serving size compared to what’s recommended for a meal. While you can’t ask for half a plate of food, you can portion out your meal when it comes to the table.

Try asking your server for a to-go container to divide your meal and avoid overeating.


Eat Your Veggies First 

In addition to keeping up with your fiber and mineral intake, starting with the vegetables on your plate will make you feel more nourished. Eating your vegetables first helps you curb your appetite to prevent overeating. It also ensures a steady and slow digestion due to the fiber content, which also prevents you from falling into a food coma.

Don’t Fall For the Salad 

If you think that ordering a gourmet salad is your ticket to a guilt-free meal, think again. Many specialty salads found in restaurants are latent with calorie-increasing ingredients, like bacon bits, avocado, processed meats, cheese, tortilla strips, creamy dressings, and more.

If you’re in the mood for a salad, be sure to read the ingredients carefully and make the appropriate swaps to avoid unnecessary amounts of saturated and trans fats, sodium, and other gut-busting ingredients.

Ask For Dressings, Toppings, and Sauces on the Side  

When you request your dressings, toppings, and sauces on the side of your meal, it allows you to control your intake of those ingredients. Restaurants easily overdo the amount of mayonnaise on sandwiches and dressing on salads, sabotaging your entire meal.

So, If you want to make healthy food choices when dining out, you need to pay attention to the little things.



Watch Your Pairings 

If you want healthy dining, then you need to focus on the well-balanced meals the menu has to offer. If they don’t offer any, try creating your own using swaps or by making a special request.

The ideal plate is a combination of lean protein, fruits or vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. This offers you plenty of delicious combinations, as it can range from a simple omelet with a side of fresh fruit to a pasta dish with grilled chicken and vegetables.

You’ll want to avoid pairing unhealthy carbohydrates like white bread and fries in addition to processed meats and cheese with no stable fibers in sight!

Master the Art of Swapping 

We’ve mentioned swapping a lot so far in this article, but what does a healthy swap actually look like?


  • Swap vegetable oils for Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • Creamy salad dressings for Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar 
  • White rice for Brown Rice 
  • Fries for a Baked Potato (bonus points if you order a Baked Sweet Potato!)
  • White bread for Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Bread 
  • Sauteed vegetables for Steamed Vegetables 
  • The burger bun for a Lettuce Wrap
  • Pasta for Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles) 
  • Veggie sticks for Chips 
  • Cream-based sauce for Tomato-Based Sauce 
  • Mayo for Hummus 

Of course, some of these swaps won’t be possible. Zoodles are pretty hard to come by, even in restaurants with healthy food options — but you get the idea!

Split Dessert 

We’ll never tell you not to order dessert or what type of dessert to order. While there are healthier options — fruit sorbets versus cheesecake — desserts are meant

to be enjoyed as is.  

Barring any dietary restrictions that limit your dessert options, we suggest splitting your dessert with others. This will allow you to indulge in your favorite treats or try new ones without going overboard. (Remember, being strict with dinner does not mean you can overdo it with sweets!)

Common Healthy Dining Myths 

Learning how to make healthy food choices when dining out comes with a pretty steep learning curve. There are a lot of “dos and don’ts” out there that can confuse you as you embark on your journey of healthy eating.

Let’s debunk a few of the myths you may have heard: 

Pasta is bad for you. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Generally speaking, carbohydrates are not the enemy — but quality does matter here! Pasta made from 100% unrefined semolina wheat is the way to go. However, if the restaurant doesn’t offer this option, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a pasta dish with the right protein and sauce combination.

Gluten-free options are better. This is only true if you’ve been properly diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity or allergy. By cutting gluten out, you’re potentially cutting out whole grains, fiber, and other micronutrients. It’s simply better to opt for the more wholesome grain-based options.

Telling your server you’re allergic to certain ingredients will guarantee a healthier meal. Please don’t do this! When the kitchen staff in restaurants are informed of a food allergy, they usually go out of their way to use freshly cleaned pots, pans, utensils, and other uncontaminated supplies. This can cause delays in food preparation for other diners as well. Simply ask your server to make the necessary swaps, and they’ll be happy to accommodate you.

Eating out late at night will ruin your healthy lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with eating later in the evening if you’re actually hungry. The key is to simply stick to healthy eating choices and ensure you don’t overeat. It’s that simple!

Healthy dining, whether at a restaurant or ordering takeaway, doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you’re familiar with your options and how to make healthy good choices when dining out, you’ll realize you’re not actually limited at all!

Founder, Rachele 

Leave a Comment