Is it possible to not sabotage an otherwise healthy week of clean eatingmeal planning, prep and great recipes at home when you go out to eat? Definitely. But healthy dining out does take a little planning ahead, will power, and at times, a bit of a mindset shift in old habits.

Tips for Healthy Dining Out

Best case scenario for a healthy dining out experience includes all of the tips below. But even putting a few into practice can go a long way. If you’re an avid eater-outer, perhaps making one or two changes at a time will be helpful. Here are some ideas.

healthy dining out, planning aheadBefore you go:

1. Have a plan. Is this a “cheat” meal? A relaxing meal out? A high stress work dinner? Having an idea of how you approach the meal will help in deciding what kind of preparation you’ll need going in. Including mindset.

2. Do some restaurant scouting. If you know where you’re doing, make a point to read the menu online ahead of time. That way you can minimize any in-the-moment temptations for not-so-healthy items on the menu. And if you already have your healthy selection in mind, you won’t even have to open the menu to see the temptations!

When you sit down:

3. Skip the soda. Make water your best friend. Not only will water save the extra calories and added expense of soda, but water will also fill you up!  Drink a full glass of water before you eat.

4. Skip the apps. Not the kind on your phone. The appetizers. And if it’s a restaurant where the chips/bread/popcorn is automatically brought out, speak up and ask waiter not to bring them.

healthy dining outWhen you order:

5. Go first so you’re not swayed. Practice some bravery, choose your healthy meal and be the first to order. That way you won’t be as tempted by your potentially not-so-healthy dinner mates.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. And while you’ve got your courage high, don’t be shy about asking for healthy modifications to your order (see the Bonus below for suggestions of what to order.)

When your food comes:

7. Ask for a to go box right away. The longer the food sits on your plate in front of you, the more likely you’ll pick at it. Why not put half (or more) in the box even before your take your first bit? Saves your healthy plan and saves you time and money on your lunch for tomorrow. Win- win! Or, alternately, split your food with someone else right then and there!

8. Eat slowly. Enjoy the evening out. Enjoy each bite of the food. Enjoy the company. Slow down and chew your food. Allow your belly to tell your brain that you’re full before you overindulge.

Bonus: Specific ordering suggestions

There’s nothing wrong with asking for a few modifications when you’re ordering out. Here are some ideas of how to modify to make your healthy dining out a great experience.

  1. Choose a lean protein (baked chicken) with veggies. Even if it’s not on the menu, most restaurants can still make it.
  2. Skip the bun. Enjoy your sandwich with a fork instead!
  3. Sub extra veggies for starchy foods. Swap fries for veggies or side salad.
  4. Get the dressing on the side. Skip lots of extra calories and unhealthy fat by dipping your fork in the dressing first, and adding salad to your fork second.
  5. Skip the dessert (except for a little chocolate sometimes! 🙂 )

Do you have other healthy dining out tips? We want to hear them! Post them in the comments below!