Dining Out Secrets: How to Survive Eating Out

Eating out is becoming more and more common due to increasingly fast-paced lifestyles. Sometimes grabbing food from a restaurant is the only way the family is going to be fed after a busy day of rushing around!

But, going out to eat does not mean it's time to cave into cravings and blow your healthy living plan completely.

Eating out can be a part of a healthy diet, it just may take a little bit of strategizing and planning ahead.

Before even going to the restaurant by looking up the menu online.

Or look up the menu of several restaurants in your area ahead of time, so you can be prepared for any situation that might arise. If you go in with a plan, you are less likely to be swayed by temptations. Also, try not to arrive overly hungry because then everything looks good!

If you are unable to research the restaurant, drink a big glass of water before looking at the menu. Water will fill up your stomach, temporarily curbing your hunger, so that you can make a better decision when ordering.

When looking at a menu, check out the entree section first. These are usually smaller portions, which will help keep calories under control. But, don’t be swayed by the deep fried appetizers!

Look for vegetable or protein-based dishes that are not fried or drenched in heavy sauces.

You may also want to consider starting your dinner with a small salad or a broth-based soup. Filling up on vegetables before your meal will help you eat less overall.

Ask for the dressing on the side because restaurants tend to overdo it on the salad dressings,

This can add a lot of unnecessary energy to your meal. You can either dip each bite of the salad into the dressing as you eat or you can add a small amount of dressing on your own.

Skip the bread, chips, or anything brought to the table before your meal. Once the bread hits the table, it is difficult to avoid eating it, especially if you are hungry. If the bread is unlimited, then you can really be in trouble and consume a heap of calories before your meal even arrives. Ask the server to not put the bread on the table at all so you can avoid temptation.

As you are scanning the menu, look for words such as steamed, grilled, or sautéed.

Avoid words like crumbed, fried, crispy, or creamed. If you are not sure how something is prepared - ask! Sometimes dishes show up fried or with a high calorie sauce you weren’t expecting, so be sure to avoid any surprises.

Avoid high calorie sides such as potatoes, pastas, or bread. These are cheap for restaurants to serve and therefore the portions can be huge. Instead, load up on veggies and ask for a double portion instead of the carbs. Once your meal arrives, try eating the vegetables first, so you get full on the healthy stuff first.

Another thing to be careful of is liquid calories. 

Skip the high calorie soft drinks or juices, which sometimes come with free refills and these calories will add up quickly! Alcohol should be avoided, especially before ordering your meal, as alcohol can lower your inhibitions leading you to order less than ideal items! Instead, ask for water or another calorie-free beverages such as tea.

Consider sharing your meal with someone else, as portion sizes are usually much larger than they should be. Or ask for a takeaway container with your meal and separate half to take home before you even start eating. This will automatically cut your intake in half!

Lastly, be aware that regardless of how prepared you are at restaurants, you can never be 100% sure of what exact ingredients are in the food.

Take this into account by increasing your physical activity on days you eat out to compensate for the extra energy eaten.

Overall, you can eat healthfully and eat out with just a little bit of planning.


Julie Masci, BHlthSc, APD, AN
Julie Masci is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. She is a Mum to two boys - a blueberry loving toddler and a bouncing newborn. Julie has appeared on Brisbane’s televisions as an expert dietitian on Channel 9 News, Channel 7 News, Today Tonight and Brisbane Extra, as a diet and nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a public speaker on a variety of nutrition topics, such as obesity, diabetes, and digestive health. In her career, she has been a monthly contributor to Prevention Magazine as their Grocery Guru and Australian Weight Watchers magazine. Julie is one of In Shape Mummy’s dietitians and the founder and director of New Life Nutrition.

Back to Articles