Healthy Habits

Making Healthy Choices in Restaurants

restaurants and healthy eating

Let’s be real here. I have a very intimate relationship with food.  It’s safe to say that I consider myself a bit of a foodie. Eating out is my main way of socializing with friends, cooking is one of my favorite activities, and I am obsessed with trying new culinary temptations. Since I have never been blessed with a high metabolism, I can attest that my bum and tum did not appreciate the enormous amount of truffle oil burgers and peri-salted chips that have glided so easily down my throat.

When it comes to dieting, I am not one of those girls who can give up that part of me. My relationship with food is something that is an integral part of who I am, so diets where I forgo everything usually don’t last long. While I can be disciplined for most of the week, if I want to have that chocolate cake, I am going to have that damn cake.

My approach to eating healthy is one of balance. I will count my calories during the week and try to be good (mostly… I must confess I may have had a Malteser bunny this afternoon). But my weekends I allow for enjoying choice meals, cocktails/wine and the occasional dessert or two (or three. Stop judging me). Because I do tend to be a bit more liberal with my food intake on the weekends, I need to be more conscientious where I tend to make the worst choices: restaurants.

While I don’t claim to be a nutritionist, I have started implementing a few guidelines into the meals I order, and it has seemed to play a role in my weight management. Here are my 5 tips for making healthier choices when eating out…

1. Preview the menu…

menu at the Contini Cafe in Scotland

If you know ahead of time that you’re going out to dinner, make up your mind about what you will eat before you’re physically at the restaurant. When you’re not starving and surrounded by other people chowing down on fish and chips, you will naturally make better choices. Not only will it help you budget monetarily for the restaurant, but you will also be able to budget your calories.

2. To drink,to appetizer or to dessert? Choose one or the other!

dessert and coffee

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat raw carrots at restaurants for the rest of your life. When  you’re eating out, you can indulge a bit. I don’t want my meal experience to be equal to me eating at home. What I try to do (it doesn’t always happen!) is stick to a main course and 1 of these three things: alcohol, starter or dessert. If you absolutely want your dessert, get sparkling water or a sugar-free drink. If you’re a sucker for a glass of wine with dinner like I am, forgo the appetizer and dessert, and stick with the drink, and vice versa. That way, you don’t feel like you’re deprived of your favorite things and missing out, and yet keep you from over-indulging.

3. Choose meats and vegetables rather than pastas and rice.


The best way to feel full longer and not put on those extra pounds is to forgo the lasagne and choose a steak and salad.  According to, “protein takes time for your body to break down and digest, potentially making you feel fuller longer. Your steak is going to have more energy because of the protein and fat, and you’ll eat a lot less food than if you ate a whole bowl of pasta. Adding a salad to your steak will make it more well-balanced, while still giving you the energy you need.

4. Skip the bun.

burger no bun

There is nothing like ordering an amazing burger from a restaurant. I can make my own, but why go through all that effort when restaurants have dedicated their resources to perfect them! The biggest downside to eating a burger can be the extra carbohydrates they carry, especially from the bun. White hamburger buns have about 120 calories and brioche buns can have up to 280 calories! And those are not the good kind of calories either! I have found that I can still enjoy the burger, with all the toppings, and just get it without the bun. It’s still as amazing and tasty, and I end up feeling less guilty!

5. Salads are our friends.


As a person who has a salad almost every day for lunch, I can testify how much better I feel if I eat just raw vegetables rather than a grain-filled meal. Getting in the habit of eating salads is so important, because it’s an easy way to incorporate your daily requirements for vegetables, protein and even dairy. In addition, salads have lots of fiber, and that’s really important for our health. Fiber will help with cholesterol levels, as well as improve your bowel movements. Vegetables are high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. Not to mention, they are super low impact on your body! You won’t gain weight from eating salads (dressing is another story). Often, restaurants get really creative with their salads, and you could order one as an alternative to your main, or as a side dish.

What are YOUR tips for eating out and staying healthy?

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