Eating Out: Tips for Making Healthy Choices

Woman eating salad.It’s not easy to change the habits of a lifetime. Experts say that it can take 6 months just to change one old habit for a healthier one. That’s why gradual change is so important. These tips are reminders of the dozens of small ways you can change your habits when eating out. Don’t expect to follow each tip all the time. Think of the tips as options for handling situations that may have given you trouble in the past.

Fast food tips

  • Choose grilled chicken sandwiches and plain hamburgers. Add vegetables to your burgers and sandwiches and go lightly on creamy sauces like mayonnaise and tartar sauce. Choose whole-grain buns or bread when available.

  • Remove the skin from fried chicken and choose mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, or baked beans on the side.

  • Order a broiled or grilled chicken salad and pile on fresh vegetables from the salad bar. Use a small amount of low-fat dressing.

  • Top a baked potato with cottage cheese and vegetables from the salad bar.

  • Ask for a pizza topped with vegetables.

  • Watch portion size. Order regular size meals, not super-sized. A kid's meal may be enough and may have healthier options for sides.

  • Stay away from milkshakes, sugary sodas, and sweetened drinks. Instead choose low-fat or skim milk, water, unsweetened ice tea, and sparkling water.

Restaurant tips

  • Plan ahead. Decide what you will eat before you get to the restaurant. If you plan to eat high-fat foods, choose low-fat foods during the rest of the day.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask how foods are prepared and whether they can be done without high-fat ingredients, such as cream, butter, cheese, and oil.

  • Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side and use just a tablespoon. Ask for low-fat dressings.

  • Try starting your meal with a bowl of vegetable soup or a salad. This may help to prevent you from overeating during the meal.

  • Order meat, poultry, and fish broiled, grilled, baked, poached, or steamed. Always remove the skin from chicken.

  • Choose Mexican dishes made with soft, rather than crispy tortillas. For toppings, use salsa and lettuce, rather than sour cream and cheese.

  • For dessert, enjoy fruit, sorbet, or low-fat frozen yogurt. Share a rich dessert with friends.

  • Make a meal out of a low-fat appetizer (such as shrimp cocktail or fresh pasta), bread, and salad as your main meal. Ask for an appetizer-size portion of an entree.