Don’t let going out to dinner create unnecessary stress or throw you off from your entire way of eating and thinking.

Instead, follow these simple tips so you can make healthier choices when dining out.

What to look for on the menu

  • Simmered
  • Steamed
  • Poached
  • Baked
  • Broiled
  • Grilled
  • Roasted

Words on the menu to avoid

  • Gravy
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Buttery or creamy sauces
  • Scampi
  • Fried
  • Crispy
  • Breaded

The most important FULLfoods “Deciding What to Eat When Dining Out” tips

Tip #1: Look at the restaurant’s menu prior to going. When you familiarize yourself with the menu options prior to arriving, you have time to think about and make the best decision. It also allows you to call ahead and ask questions, if you have any, as to what the chef can do to modify an order.

Tip #2: Before choosing a meal, think about how you want to feel after you eat. Food has a direct relationship with our energy. It’ll either fuel us or make us feel tired and lethargic. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel after I eat this meal?” Keep the end game in sight.

Tip #3: After you arrive, drink a glass of water before starting to eat anything. This helps with portion control because water can help you feel full.

Tip #4: Choose water rather than teas, juice or soda. Remember those liquid calories add up!

Tip #5: If ordering a mixed drink, use this simple cocktail framework:

  • Start with a light-colored alcohol, such as vodka, gin or tequila, because they have less sugar.
  • Use club soda or seltzer water as your mixer.
  • Sweeten your drink with a small splash of juice, muddled fresh fruit or an orange wedge squeezed into your drink.
  • Add flavor with mint, lemon juice, lime juice or jalapeño.

Tip #6: If you have a difficult time with portion control:

  • Avoid the bread basket.
  • Choose an appetizer rather than a meal or entrée.
  • Split a dish with someone.
  • Ask the server to box half your meal before serving it.
  • Make an effort to be the last one finished eating.
  • Eat half your meal and put your fork down for 10 minutes. Literally, put your fork down for 10 minutes! During this 10-minute span, drink a glass of water. After the 10 minutes, ask yourself if you’re actually still hungry.

Tip #7: Order dressings and sauces on the side so you can control the amount used.

Tip #8: Consider ordering healthier condiments and toppings. Rather than ordering and eating sour cream or mayonnaise on foods such as a baked potato or sandwich, order a healthy alternative such as salsa or mustard.

Tip #9: Ask the chef to prepare the food with minimal to no butter or oil.

Tip #10: Choose tomato-based rather than cream-based soups or sauces.

Tip #11: Limit yourself to one of the following: an appetizer, drink (something other than water) or dessert. The bread basket counts as an appetizer; if you’re not going to eat it, ask your server to remove it from the table.

Tip #12: Don’t order foods off the children’s menu. Often kids’ menus contain highly processed, premade foods: chicken nuggets, pasta with white flour, hot dogs and so on.

Tip #13: Avoid ordering starch-based meals. Meals that contain mostly starches, such as many pasta dishes, have limited nutritional value and do nothing more than spike your carb intake. If you’re dying to choose a pasta dish, choose a tomato-based sauce rather than a cream-based sauce with added protein and veggies.

Tip #14: Try not to eat out more than once every week or two. Typically, even the “healthiest” meals out aren’t nearly as healthy as home-cooked meals. So, if you keep your dining out to a minimum (one meal every one to two weeks) and want to splurge a little, as long as you’re eating healthy the rest of the week, go ahead. Remember the 80/20 approach; create balance!

We know firsthand how overwhelming and stressful eating out can be.

It’s difficult to choose a meal you want to eat without feeling like you’ll be throwing your healthy diet out the window or sacrificing flavor. Don’t let going out to dinner create unnecessary stress. Instead, follow these simple tips so you can enjoy your meal and make healthier choices when dining out.

Let’s make healthy happen — together!