Stop Hurting Your Good Nutrition When Dining Out

National Nutrition Month’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward. So we’re focusing on small ways to improve each bite we take.

Dining out is a big part of our culture. Most Americans dine out at least once a week. The FDA reports that Americans get one third of our calories from food outside the home.

It can be difficult to put your best fork forward when dining out because many restaurants serve foods in large portions. Restaurant meals are also often high in sodium and fat and low in produce.

Many entrée options can be too tempting to pass up. Unfortunately, we can’t treat every dining out experience as a splurge meal. Here are some tips on making the best choices when dining out.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is a common theme when it comes to good nutrition. Healthy eating doesn’t usually just happen. Restaurants with 20 or more locations are required to have nutrition information available, and it’s often available online. If a restaurant you’re going to doesn’t have nutrition information available, look up a similar menu item from another restaurant. Try to make the healthiest choice and keep MyPlate ( in mind when ordering.

Your plate should be half fruits and vegetables. Ask for a side salad or steamed vegetable. Also, consider eating a small snack before heading to the restaurant. You’re more likely to overeat if you get to the restaurant extra hungry.

Skip the Chips and Salsa or Bread Basket

Eating the chips and salsa served at the table can add 500 calories to your meal! Ask your waiter to hold the bread or chips. That way you can fill up on the food you went to the restaurant for. If you absolutely must have chips and salsa or bread, put an appropriate serving (5 chips or 1 slice bread) on your plate and eat from your serving. Avoid eating straight from the basket or bowl because this can lead to mindless overeating.

Control Main Course Portions

It’s no secret that portion sizes have gotten bigger at restaurants. Some pasta restaurants serve 4-8 times the appropriate serving size! The good news is that you can use some handy strategies to counteract this trend.

  • Try splitting a meal with your dining partner.
  • Order an appetizer with a side salad.
  • Take leftovers home for another meal or two. It may be a good idea to ask for a box when your meal is served so you can wrap up the portion you don’t plan to eat right away. It is much more difficult to overeat when the food is wrapped up and out of sight!

It is a good idea to keep nutrition in mind when you dine out often. Plan your meal ahead of time and make sure to include produce when you order.

When you dine out with a plan, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and meet your nutrition goals.

If weight loss is your goal, professional guidance is available.

Meet the Author

Ali Stoffer, RD, is a registered dietitian at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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