Tips for Eating Smart While Dining Out

Ann G. Kulze, M.D. | Published on July 6, 2010

Updated on June 5, 2019

Editor’s Note: Ann G. Kulze, M.D. is a noted nutrition and wellness expert and physician. This post is part one of a two part series on healthy eating while traveling.

Summer travel means dining out and dining out comes with a host of forces that can work against you on the wellness front. Take advantage of the following guiding principles to transform this high risk eating endeavor into one that provides sensory pleasure without sacrificing your health or sabotaging your waistline.

Avoid the “Great White Hazards” (white flour products, white potatoes, white rice)

  • Request that bread not be brought to your table or have it removed as soon as you are seated.
  • Ask for vegetables, beans or salads to replace white rice, potatoes, fries and pasta sides.
  • Avoid pasta entrees.
  • Always request whole grain bread instead of white bread when available.

Control Your Portions (your biggest challenge)

  • Request that your server package half of your meal in a take-home box before you are served.
  • Have an appetizer as your main dish.
  • Split an entrée with your dining partner.
  • Request a smaller portion.
  • Avoid large buffet lines and all-you-can-eat restaurants. Studies show the more quantity and variety available to us, the more we eat.

Eat as Many Fruits and Non-Starchy Veggies as Possible

  • Studies confirm that these foods, because they are “big” in volume from fiber and water, quite literally “fill your tummy up” while providing a relatively low number of calories.  The name of the game is “volumizing” meals with as many bulky, yet low calorie fruits and veggies as possible.
  • Consider entrée salads.
  • Choose appetizers that provide fruits and/or veggies.
  • Ask for extra vegetable sides or a double order of a veggie side.
  • Substitute non-starchy vegetables for sides of potatoes, pasta and rice.
  • At the buffet table, fill three-quarters of your plate up first with non-starchy vegetables.

Do Your Fats Right!

  • Request that your foods be prepared in canola or olive oil.
  • If these healthy fats are not available, request that all butter, sauces, dressings and gravy be put on the side so you can control the portions.
  • Avoid appetizers or entrees with the words “hearty, deep-fried, creamed or crispy”.  These descriptors almost always mean big doses of unhealthy fats and calories.
  • Avoid fatty cuts of red meat – burgers, meat loaf, bacon, ribs, sausage etc.

Beware of Liquid Calories

  • Excess calories from beverages, especially sweetened beverages like tea, sodas and fruit drinks mount very quickly.  Additionally, studies show that sugary beverages do not have the appetite suppressive Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 drink.
  • A glass of red wine is the healthiest choice.
  • Alcohol has a disinhibiting effect and increases the likelihood of dietary indiscretions.

Enjoy your travels and bon appetite!

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