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Healthy Tips for Eating Out

You don't have to give up eating out to eat healthier. You just need to think about what you order. Many menus highlight low-fat and low-sodium dishes. But if you can't find what you want, ask. Explain what you need to the waiter or waitress. Or ask to see printed nutrition information.

Man and woman sitting in restaurant eating salads.

Before you go out


  • Look up the menu online before you go, so you will have a good idea of healthier choices offered.

  • Don't "save up" by not eating earlier in the day, otherwise you might overeat and not feel well afterwards.

  • Call the restaurant beforehand to see if they are able to honor your food requests.


Ask for what you want

  • Ask that foods be prepared with little or no fat and with no added salt.

  • Ask that sauces be left off or served on the side. Choose sauces made with tomatoes or broth instead of butter, cream, or cheese.

  • Ask for steamed rice or a baked or boiled potato, without butter or sour cream.

  • Ask that vegetables be steamed and served with no butter or sauce. Ask for lemon juice or vinegar to sprinkle on them for flavor.

Keep these tips in mind

  • Choose minestrone or vegetable soups. Ask about sodium content.

  • Order salad dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the dressing, then in the salad.

  • Look for fish, chicken, turkey, or other lean meat that is broiled, roasted, poached, or steamed.

  • Order 1 or 2 low-fat appetizers or soup and a salad instead of a main dish. Or eat only half of the main dish and take the rest home.

  • Instead of thinking about what you can't have, think of what you can add to your meal. For example, choose vegetables or fruit as your side dish, look for whole grains, such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Or find foods that include healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts and seeds.

  • Don't drink your calories. Instead of alcohol or soda, choose water. Ask for a lemon wedge if you want a hint of flavor.

  • If you want a dessert, try fresh fruit, nonfat yogurt, or sorbet. Or share a dessert.

Foods to pass up

  • Doughnuts, muffins, and pastries

  • Coconut, vegetables with butter, cream, or cheese sauce

  • Cream, whole milk, and powdered creamers

  • Bacon, liver, lunch meats, ground meat, and canned fish in oil

  • Sweets and foods made with butter, coconut or palm oil, or partially-hydrogenated fats

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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