How can I avoid unhealthy food while eating out?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Steps you can take while eating out to avoid unhealthy eating:

1.  When out at a restaurant, ask the server to hold the bread, snack mix or chips and salsa that might come before the meal. If you're hungry, you'll be tempted.

2.  When eating out, ask your server to point out the healthiest options on the menu.

3. If you're eating out, make salad the appetizer. Most starters are fried and come with unhealthy dips or sauces.




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Joy Dubost, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Dining out can be an enjoyable experience. With a little thought and preparation, you can choose healthful options that are right for you. Below are a few tips.

  • Do some research ahead of time. Many restaurants have menu options and nutrition information available on the restaurant’s website. Review the nutritional information and plan ahead what healthful menu items you will order. You may also want to explore which provides healthful menu options for restaurants located within a selected mile radius of your zip code.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy the experience. Be mindful of the flavor combinations and savor the food not the abundance.
  • To save on calories, you may want to skip the bread and butter and/or olive oil. If you choose to have some bread, choose one slice and have the waiter remove the rest.
  • Choose broth-based soups and those that are packed with vegetables. Creamy soups are typically higher in calories.
  • Look for menu options that incorporate beans, lentils and nuts which are high in protein and fiber.
  • Some restaurants will offer small or half portions of many appetizers, entrees and desserts. Look for terms like small, half and regular. Some restaurant may offer smaller sizes but don’t advertise them. Ask your server if you can get a smaller size. If this is not an option, ask your server to provide a take-home container when your meal is served. You can split your meal in half right away and save the other half to enjoy the next day. You also may want to share a main dish with a friend.
  • Choose menu options that contain vegetables. Substitute fried side dishes for vegetables or fruit. Choose steamed, grilled or raw vegetables to save on calories.
  • Choose items that are grilled, steamed, broiled, poached and roasted.
  • Steer clear of butter or cream sauces on pastas and entrees. Look for tomato-based sauces.
  • When ordering pasta or rice, ask if the restaurant has a whole wheat or whole grain option, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
  • For meat options, chose sirloin, eye round or tenderloin steak or roast, which tend to be leaner cuts. You may also choose skinless chicken or turkey breast. Grilled or broiled fish topped with flavorful seasonings is also a great option.
  • You may want to skip dessert, or order what you want and just take a few bites. You could also share the dessert with the rest of the table. You may also choose healthier choices such as fresh fruit or sorbets.



Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics

I want to preface my answer by stating food is not unhealthy, behavior is!!! When eating out or at home, practice mindful eating as follows:

Chew each bite of food at least 32 times (savor the flavor and texture of food as you chew).

Limit adding condiments, dressings, sauces and spreads to food served (This limits caloric intake).

Identify what nutrients are in the foods served on the menu. Choose foods according to what your body needs for optimal health.

Identify serving sizes of food selections (especially high-fat or high-kcalorie foods). Limit intake.

Eat high fiber foods first (They'll fill you).

Drink water instead of fluids containing added sugars and alcohol.

Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics

These are some key words you want to look when ordering at a restaurant:

  • Baked
  • Broiled
  • Steamed
  • Marinara
  • Primavera
  • Roasted
  • Stir fried

Limit the following preparation methods:

  • Buttered
  • Breaded
  • En croute
  • Scalloped
  • Alfredo
  • Deep fried
  • Bearnaise

You can also reduce the amount of empty calories by limiting soft drinks, juices and alcoholic beverages.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.