Take Control When Dining Out

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The Holidays are looming on the horizon, which means celebrating and enjoying time with friends, and often this includes a meal! Here is an easy reminder of some “best choices” when dining out!

Before leaving the house, check out the restaurant online if possible. Generally, they will provide nutritional information and this should give you a head start on making a great choice. Often some items will surprise you. Have a small snack beforehand to keep your hunger at bay; an apple or an ounce of nuts will do the trick!! If possible, make a reservation, waiting for a table might increase your hunger!!

In the Restaurant

  • Control your portions in the beginning, splitting a meal, or ordering an appetizer and a salad for your meal, sometimes I will actually cut my meal in half and ask for a to-go box before even starting to eat, so I won’t be tempted!!
  • Be mindful, take your time and enjoy the company and the meal.
  • Always ask for water and drink in between bites, this will fill you up and slow you down.
  • Choose red sauces over cream sauces.
  • Ask if brown rice is available instead of white rice.
  • Choose poultry over beef and vegetables over any meat at all.
  • Fresh salads that are vegetable based are often the most filling.
  • Monitor your bread intake, or ask the waiter to hold the bread (sometimes it is just too tempting).
  • Watch the salad dressing, choose Italian or clear dressings instead of white ones, ask for it on the side.
  • Choose broth-based, vegetable-rich soups, and pass on calorie-rich cream-based soups.


  • Order fish and poultry, if choosing red meat choose a small, lean cut such as a petit filet.
  • Look for preparation techniques such as grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, or steamed, and order sauces on the side.
  • Choose red sauce over cream sauce when complementing pasta.
  • Don’t choose fried, breaded, crispy, creamed, or buttered.


  • Request a baked potato, steamed vegetables, green salad, cup of vegetable soup, or fresh fruit instead of French fries.
  • Request baked potato toppings on the side and use them sparingly.
  • Choosing steamed vegetables instead of rice or potato can save you 100-200 calories.


  • Split a dessert amongst the group.
  • Request berries or fruit.
  • Have a single scoop of low-fat ice cream or sorbet.
  • Skip and have a coffee.


  • Skip – Chicken Burrito (1,530 calories, 68 grams of fat). Generally, chicken, beans, and rice are healthy. But restaurants serve them in a large-sized portion alongside a glob of sour cream. (And not the fat-free variety).
  • Pick – Chicken Fajita. Enjoy the sizzling chicken, onion, and pepper dish for just 330 calories and 11 grams of fat. Half a tortilla adds another 200 calories. In some cases you can ask for it to be prepared with less oil reducing the fat.
  • Even healthier – Chicken Soft Taco. One contains 210 calories and 11 grams of fat.
  • Watch out for – Tortilla Chips. Just 15 of these triangles pack 192 calories and 10 grams of fat.


  • Skip – Shrimp Tempura Roll (544 calories, 13 grams of fat). The word “tempura” is code for battered and deep-fried.
  • Pick – Miso Soup, a Salmon-Avocado Roll, and a Cucumber Roll (525 calories, 12 grams of fat).
  • Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids and the avocado’s monounsaturated fats both protect your heart.
  • Even healthier – Salmon Sashimi. Subbing this rice-free choice for a roll will save you 140 calories and 3 grams of fat.
  • Watch out for – Spicy Sauce A tablespoon of this condiment has 99 calories and 11 grams of fat.

Brunch Menu

  • Skip – French Toast with Syrup and Sausage (1,260 calories, 65 grams of fat). You’ll take in 26 grams of saturated fat.
  • Pick -Two Eggs, Fruit Salad, and an English Muffin (470 calories, 22 grams of fat). This combo provides enough protein to power you through the morning.
  • Even healthier – Egg Whites or an Egg Substitute. This trims 108 calories and 9 grams of fat.
  • Watch out for – Butter. A pat adds up to 100 calories, so ask for a dry English muffin and spread on jam.


  • Skip – Chicken Parmesan (1,340 calories, 78 grams of fat). Chicken is lean, but not when it’s fried and smothered in cheese.
  • Pick – Minestrone (100 calories, 1 gram of fat). Order it with a half serving of spaghetti marinara (410 calories, 8 grams of fat). Research shows that a soup starter can help curb your appetite— and your calorie intake.
  • Even healthier – Pasta Primavera with Red Sauce. Request the dish with extra vegetables.
  • Watch out for – Garlic Bread. Two small slices contain 273 calories and 11 grams of fat.


  • Skip Kung Pao Chicken (1,620 calories, 76 grams of fat). One serving has more fat than two Big Macs and a side of fries.
  • Pick – Szechuan Shrimp or Shrimp and Garlic Sauce (465 calories, 10 grams of fat for half a serving). Because most of the oil and sugar are found in the sauce, ask for it on the side and drizzle a little over the top.
  • Even healthier – Steamed Chicken and Broccoli. This satisfying dish has just 280 calories and 12 grams of fat.
  • Watch out for – Egg Rolls. Hold this fried extra to save 190 calories.

Resources: North Carolina State University, FCS Department, and SHAPE.