Waiter with plates

Michael Arp, MS, RDN/LDN
Clinical Dietitian, Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital

Dining out is fun and can be an enjoyable experience; however, if you aren’t mindful of the foods that you are eating, you may be jeopardizing your health! Having a strategy and sticking to it is so important for maintaining your eating plan and remaining healthy.

When dining out, here are a few tips to remember:

Skip the Regular Soft Drinks

Skip the regular soft drinks. The portion sizes of restaurant glasses may be 16 oz or more and usually have bottomless refills. What does this mean? If you aren’t careful, you might be drinking more calories and consuming way too much sugar than you should. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 36 grams of added sugar/day for men and 25grams for women (about 1⁄2 of a 12 oz can of soda). You can always go for diet sodas, diet lemonade, unsweetened tea, or just plain water with lemon!

soda
Bread

Watch Out for the House Bread and Rolls

Have you noticed that restaurants usually serve house bread first before appetizers and entrees? Typically, the bread is white bread, low in fiber, high in carbohydrates, and may have butter melted on top. What does this mean? You may be consuming an excessive number of Calories in the form of carbohydrates and saturated fats before you make it to the main course!

Bottom line: pass on the bread or limit yourself to 1 slice or 1 roll.

Aim for Vegetables as Appetizers

Let’s face it, appetizers can be great tasting and can help curb your appetite before your entrée arrives. However, it is important to know what you are eating. Some of the appetizers may be deep fried, battered, and/or have large amounts of cheese which may contain more Calories than an entire meal!
What’s the solution? Try to order vegetables as appetizers. Shareable salads or roasted Brussel sprouts are always a safe option. This way you can increase your fiber intake while helping you feel full!

Vegetables
Chicken and Brussel Sprouts

Remember Portions

Restaurant portion sizes can be 2-3 times greater than the recommended amount and can be loaded with salt, fat, and sugar! Of course, it tastes GREAT, but if we aren’t careful, we may be consuming WAY more calories than we are aware of and adding inches to our waist line. Try to split your entrée with your significant other, order off the kid’s menu, or take 1⁄2 of the entree to go (which is great for tomorrow’s lunch)!

Don’t Skip Dessert!

Skipping out on dessert is like going shopping while on a budget AKA not fun! It’s no surprise that desserts high in sugars and saturated fats can raise our blood sugar and triglyceride levels. Why not indulge yourself with ordering 1 dessert but share with your significant other or friends. This way you can enjoy the food that you want, while decreasing your portion. Desserts are a treat, and should be eaten in small quantities and infrequently.

Dessert

By having a strategy and using these tips, you can be healthy and conscious of the choices you make while dining out. Keep the whole experience a fun one and enjoy yourself!

Do you have healthy tips when dining out? Share it with us! We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

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