Healthy Eating When Dining Out


eat healthy when you eat out!

Don't Abandon Your Diet

Americans love eating out -- and there's no reason why it can't be healthy eating. But you can't always find out the number of calories, fat, or salt in a restaurant's menu items. So follow these ordering tips to make sure you stay within your healthy diet.

Some Fats Are Good for You

Monounsaturated fats: Substituted for saturated fats in your diet, they help lower bad LDL cholesterol and don't reduce good HDL cholesterol. Found in canola oil, olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts, and nut butters.

Polyunsaturated fats: Help lower cholesterol. Found in fatty fish, vegetable oils, and nuts and sunflower seeds.

Fish Is Good for Your Heart

Fish is a healthy choice when dining out. Ordering seafood such as salmon and tuna adds omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. They are a type of polyunsaturated fat that helps lower your heart disease risk. You’ll also find a different type of omega-3 in walnuts and edamame (soybeans).

Avoid Fried Foods and Added Cheese

Eating out often means getting too much saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories.

How can you spot the dangers? Saturated fats come mostly from meat and whole-fat dairy foods. Tropical oils like palm oil and coconut oil, and butter are also saturated fats. Cholesterol is found in animal fats. Primarily the saturated fat and the cholesterol in the foods you eat increase your cholesterol levels.

Spotting High-Sodium Foods

Restaurant foods can be very high in sodium, or salt. If you are watching your sodium as many Americans need to, watch for:

  • Foods that are pickled, smoked, in broth or au jus

  • Cocktail sauce, soy, or teriyaki sauce

  • MSG

Look for low-sodium soy sauce. And ask that your food be prepared without added salt or MSG.

Have a Heart

Some restaurants have tuned into heart-healthy eating. They offer low-fat, low-salt, low-cholesterol menu items, designated with a heart icon.

Don't confuse this with the favorite’s icon. That can be a flag for popular, fatty choices. One delicious heart-healthy option: A grilled fish filet, a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

In restaurants where food is cooked to order, you can make special requests for lighter fare.

If you're counting calories -- or keeping an eye on saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium -- tell your server.

Ask what's in a dish. Find out how it's cooked. A chef can often prepare food using less oil, no butter, or no added salt. If there is sauce, salad dressing, or gravy, get it on the side. Then you can dip -- or skip -- and use less.

Clues to Unhealthy Dishes

Concerned about high cholesterol, diabetes, or losing weight? Read menus carefully.

Thumbs Down:

  • Fried, au gratin, braised, buttered, creamed, escalloped

  • Hollandaise, cheese, or cream sauce

  • In gravy, pan-fried or -roasted, rich, in butter sauce.

Clues to Healthy Nutrition

Grilled chicken vs. fried chicken. Broiled fish vs. fried fish. When dining out, look for possible code words to healthier food with less saturated fat.

Thumbs Up:

  • Baked, broiled, grilled

  • Poached, roasted, steamed

  • In its own juice, garden fresh

Cutting Fat Can Help Weight Loss