Return to Blog index

11 Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants

Healthy Eating


Dining out and keeping commitments to your healthy lifestyle aren’t always compatible. You work so hard at home to follow healthy eating guidelines, but it can seem impossible to stay on track when at a restaurant. When eating at most restaurants, you can forget about knowing what is going into your food and it’s incredibly difficult to avoid those unhealthy ingredients like salt, butter, and saturated fats.

But dining out doesn’t have to wreck your months of hard work. It’s not practical to avoid going out entirely, and when you live in a city like San Francisco with so many incredible dining establishments — occasionally going out is a must. The good news is you can eat at restaurants and be healthy. You simply have to know how.

Here are 11 tips for eating healthy at restaurants.

  1. Arrive hungry but not famished. Ordering while you’re starving puts unnecessary strain on your willpower. Have a late protein-packed afternoon snack like almonds, string cheese, yogurt, etc.
  2. Think apps! Very often you can find a couple of appetizers on the menu that are healthy alternatives to the main dishes and can make a balanced meal.
  3. Sharing is caring. Split an appetizer and entrée with a friend.
  4. Choose your splurge. You don’t have to completely deny yourself — just control yourself. So if you want a treat, pick ONE; drink, appetizer or dessert (not all three).
  5. Water first. Drink your full glass of water before ordering/eating. Drinking water will slow you down from eating your food too fast which will help you enjoy the food more. Drinking water also allows your brain to get the message from your stomach that you’re full so you don’t overeat.
  6. East slowly. Eat mindfully and enjoy the company and conversation
  7. Examine the menu and look for keywords to avoid. Dishes with these words tend to have a lot of hidden fat and salt: pan-fried, crispy, dipped, scalloped, breaded, cream, alfredo. Instead look for menu items with words like: grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, braised, broiled, seared.
  8. Ask to double or triple your veggies. Just make sure to ask that the vegetables NOT be cooked in butter for an easy way to avoid fat and calories.
  9. Go ethnic. When it comes to ethnic food, some options (like Japanese, Thai, Greek, and Indian restaurants) are easier to eat healthier at than others (like Mexican, Chinese, or Italian restaurants).
  10. Get fishy. Fish is a great option, as long as it’s not fried. You can order seafood tons of different ways — steamed, blackened, baked, broiled, sautéed, or grilled.
  11. Ask about preparation. If you’re concerned about the butter or salt in your food, don’t be afraid to ask your server how the food is prepared. If you find out what you want is actually loaded with oil or butter, either ask for it to be prepared differently or choose something else.

Don’t let enjoying a lunch or dinner out at a restaurant ruin your healthy eating goals. Follow these easy tips for how to eat healthy at restaurants to see how eating out healthy is possible and delicious!