What Tips Do Nutritionists Provide to Make Healthier Dining Out Choices?


    What Tips Do Nutritionists Provide to Make Healthier Dining Out Choices?

    When it comes to dining out without ditching the diet, advice from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can be invaluable, starting with the tip to always utilize nutritional information. Alongside expert guidance, we've collected seven additional answers that offer practical strategies for making healthier choices. From the simple switch of choosing grilled over fried to the mindful practice of portion control, discover a menu of tips to savor the healthy side of eating out.

    • Utilize Nutritional Information
    • Contextualize Your Meal Choices
    • Add Fruits and Vegetables
    • Choose Grilled Over Fried
    • Hydrate with Water
    • Request Dressings on the Side
    • Avoid Buffet Temptations
    • Practice Portion Control

    Utilize Nutritional Information

    When it comes to making healthier choices while dining out, knowledge is power. Thanks to the FDA's mandate in 2018, chain restaurants are now required to disclose nutritional information, empowering consumers to make more informed decisions about what they eat. This transparency has become increasingly important as more individuals contend with food allergies and intolerances. While not all restaurants may provide detailed ingredient lists, many offer information on major allergens such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and now sesame, too. Utilizing resources like restaurant websites can help diners identify options that align with their dietary needs and preferences. By taking advantage of available information and being proactive in their choices, individuals can enjoy dining out while prioritizing their health and well-being.

    Danielle Gaffen
    Danielle GaffenRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Eat Well Crohn's Colitis

    Contextualize Your Meal Choices

    The biggest tip I give to my clients when it comes to dining out (or ordering in) is to put that meal into context. How often is this happening? If you dine out or order in frequently, then it is very helpful to look for satisfying and balanced options that are closely aligned with your health goals. On the other hand, if this is something you do every few months, then simply focus on what would feel good today. Though, with practice and reflection, the gap between your health goals and what feels good during and after the meal can be much smaller than you might think.

    Samantha Holmgren
    Samantha HolmgrenDietitian & Wellness Coach, Anti-Inflammatory Path to Wellness

    Add Fruits and Vegetables

    An effective tip to support overall health when dining out is to make sure that your plate has vegetables and/or fruits and other brightly colored plant foods on it. For example, if you order a steak, add a side salad with lettuce and tomato. If you order an omelette, consider adding herbs, peppers, and spinach or a sweet potato. Perhaps add a bowl of berries with your chocolate cake for dessert. Adding fruits and vegetables to other foods that may not be as healthy increases the antioxidant capacity, fiber, anti-inflammatory compounds, and overall nutrition in the meal.

    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, Cdn
    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, CdnIntegrative Nutritionist, Kim Ross Nutrition

    Choose Grilled Over Fried

    Nutrition experts often suggest that when dining out, one beneficial choice is to select dishes that are grilled rather than fried. The grilling process usually requires less oil and therefore can reduce the total fat content of the meal. Additionally, grilled foods can retain more of their nutritional value and offer a different kind of flavor profile that supports healthier eating habits while still being delicious.

    Avoiding fried options reduces the intake of unhealthy fats linked to various health issues. When planning your next meal out, think of the grilled specialties the restaurant offers and make a thoughtful selection.

    Hydrate with Water

    Health-conscious individuals should consider hydrating with water, which not only quenches thirst without adding calories but also aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. Sugary beverages can contribute to an increased risk of lifestyle-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity due to their high-calorie content and lack of nutritional benefits. Choosing water over sweetened drinks is a simple decision that can make a significant impact on one's overall diet quality and health outcomes.

    To enhance the flavor, one might request a slice of lemon or lime. Let water be your go-to beverage choice for a healthier dining out experience.

    Request Dressings on the Side

    Nutritionists encourage diners to request dressings and sauces to be served on the side when eating out. This practice empowers individuals to control the amount of added fats and sugars consumed with their meals. It allows one to manage the overall calorie intake while still enjoying the flavors the condiments offer.

    By doing so, diners can add just the amount needed to satisfy their taste without overindulging. Next time you order a salad or a dish that comes with a sauce or dressing, remember to ask for it on the side and take charge of your meal.

    Avoid Buffet Temptations

    One principle that nutritionists stress is avoiding the temptations presented by all-you-can-eat buffets. These dining establishments often lead to overeating because of the endless array of options and the desire to get one's money's worth. Instead, ordering a single plate with a variety of nutrients, such as a balanced entrée containing vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, can satisfy hunger while maintaining a nutritious diet.

    Being mindful about choosing a well-rounded meal can help prevent the pitfalls of overconsumption. So when dining out, steer clear of the buffet line and order a single, wholesome dish.

    Practice Portion Control

    When dining out, a key piece of advice from nutritionists is to prioritize portion control. Restaurant servings can be considerably larger than recommended serving sizes, making it easy to consume more calories than necessary. Being mindful of portion sizes by sharing a dish or requesting a take-home box at the start of the meal allows diners to eat a reasonable amount without feeling overly full or wasteful.

    This approach supports eating in moderation and can be particularly helpful for maintaining a balanced diet. Remember to be attentive to portion sizes during your next restaurant visit, and don't be afraid to share or save leftovers for later.