Healthy Food to Eat While Eating Out

Posted on Aug 7 2012 - 11:30pm by Demelza Young

When you’re trying to be more health-conscious of what you put in your body, it can be difficult to know where certain meals stand.  Consider some of these guidelines to help you make more wholesome decisions.

I’d like to stress the point that you are not good or bad based on what you eat.  You shouldn’t beat yourself up about eating out on occasion, or punish yourself for eating an ice cream cone once in a while.  One of my best friends often feels guilt just for eating a little bit of dessert, and will say things like “I was bad and ate a cookie today.”  It saddens me when he says things like this.  His values and personhood don't take a dive just because he ate a cookie, and yet he still feels as if he has done something horribly wrong.  I strongly encourage you to examine yourself if you have these sorts of feelings, because as long as what you eat balances out in the end, it’s okay to treat yourself once in a while.

Think lean protein.  Most people are not hurting for protein (no, not even vegetarians), but it does help keep you satiated.  When eating out, try to stick with deli meats or grilled lean protein (like chicken) and leave choices like hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers for special occasions.  Some other good sources of protein include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, and seitan.

Vegetables are your friends. They’re high in fiber (meaning they’re very filling), low in calories (green vegetables generally have one-eighth the calories that meat contains), and low in fat. If you’re looking to eat a lot of food without breaking your calorie bank, vegetables are a good factor to consider in your meal.  If you have your heart set on something that you love but isn’t necessarily as good for you, try pairing a smaller serving of that with a larger serving of vegetables.

When it comes to salads, pay close attention to your toppings (croutons and cheese can quickly add up) and what dressing you use (you’d be surprised how many contain more calories than the entire salad itself).  Your best bet with a bowl of greens is to order dressing on the side, and to then dip and not pour it on.

Better breakfast.  If you’re craving an omelette, request only whites for it (easy on the cheese and, again, include lots of veggies) and add in an order of fruit.  When ordering your cup of coffee, keep in mind that you probably don’t want to drink a meal’s worth of calories in one go.  Note that it’s easy to overestimate how much cream you’re pouring into your beverage, or how much sugar (whether from packets or flavored syrups).

Luckily, many restaurants now make nutritional information available online so you can determine areas in which you can afford to cut back or exchanges you can make to better suit your needs.  If you’re paying a visit to Starbucks, for example, you can get the lightened up version of your favorite drink and pair it with a breakfast option like a yogurt parfait or an egg white wrap.  Subway and Dunkin Donuts also offer some great choices, like egg white muffin melts (just pass over the fattier varieties, like the one with sausage) and wraps, respectfully.

Switch it up.  Broth-based soups paired with a protein-topped salad (like grilled chicken or seared fish) are often a good bet.  Of course, if you’re going out it’s simple enough to order something else that looks good to you–just don’t be afraid to request the occasional tweak, like by saying “brown instead of white” and “easy on the rice” for sushi, “tomato sauce instead of cream sauce,” and “extra vegetables with my steak, please.”  Remember how making little exchanges can make a big difference, and look over the menu to find your best options.  Key words include "grilled," "steamed," "broiled," and "baked" while it’s generally best to pass on meals described as "fried," "breaded," and "sautéed." Try to avoid sauces that seem sugary, cheesy, creamy, and/or buttery; tomato-based sauce, low sodium soy sauce, salsa, or a little lemon juice tend to make for better meal toppers.

Fast food.  It’s hard to avoid stopping for it, sometimes.  If possible, just check the stats out beforehand to help you make the best choices that you can.  Here are some hints: chicken and fish aren’t smart options if they’re fried, and you can skip the bun on your burger (try it wrapped in lettuce) as well as the cheese (which can often add 100 extra calories by itself) to lighten things up.  Just be sensible.  You don’t need to order the largest size (did you know a small order of fries often clocks in at 300 calories and 14g of fat?), and you probably don’t need a triple anything (Burger King’s Junior Whopper without mayo is a reasonable 260 calories; by comparison, the Triple Whopper is over 1,100).  Finally, skip the soda and stick with water for your beverage.

Sweet stuff.  Maybe you see a dessert on the menu that is calling your name.  It’s true that most are higher in calories, sugar, and fat than we’d like, but it’s okay sometimes to just forego the bread basket at the table, avoid any starchy sides, and to go ahead and order a dessert.  Take a few forkfuls and split the rest with your company.  Part of healthy eating is knowing how to balance out your diet.  Of course, if you’re someone who has a difficult time finding yourself satiated with just a few bites of something, consider waiting until you get home to eat dessert or pick an option like coffee or tea, biscotti, fresh fruit, or sorbet to end your meal. 


Demelza Young is an alumni of Northern Kentucky University. She currently enjoys volunteering her time in her local community, reviewing online content with her cat, and sharing quality recipes.

16 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Sofia August 8, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tips!! 😀

  2. Patty August 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Absolutely correct! We are not defined by what we eat! Great tips on eating healthier! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Katrina Brady August 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Super tips! I also like to bring home some of my dinner when I eat out. Portions are usually too large and it  makes a great lunch 🙂

  4. Melanie S August 11, 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I used to be very good at making the right choices when eating out, but somehow I've managed to slip since we had the babies.  Thanks for reminding me about what I need to do!

  5. Tamara August 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for these tips, I try to get healthy stuff which isnt always easy, Ill have to remember these tips I really appreciate you sharing these.

  6. Patty A August 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I also try to eat salad when I go out, but man it's hard when you see all that delicious food.

  7. Malia August 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    These are some great tips!

  8. Nita August 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Great article.  Thanks for sharing!  DH and I always make sure to eat veggies every time we go out.

  9. MamaBreak August 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Love this article! Thanks for always providing such great information!

  10. Melinda Dunne August 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    I try to pay special attention when I eat out I try to eat only 1/2 my food. Great information!

  11. Alaina Bullock August 27, 2012 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Great tips! Eating out and keeping it healthy can really be a challenge!

  12. Melissa Botelho September 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I find your article intresting and i need to make better choices when eating out.

  13. jheylo September 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    thanks for the great tips. but you know what? its really hard to do that especially when we go to the buffet. we get our money's worth hehehhehe.

  14. Angie September 27, 2012 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    It really is not easy selecting healthy choices while eating out! Thanks for the great tips!

Leave A Response