How can I make smart choices in restaurants?

Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
These are some tips to make smart choices when dining out:
  • Select foods that are prepared either steamed, grilled, baked, broiled, boiled or roasted.
  • For appetizer, get a side salad and order the dressing on the side.
  • Say no to the bread, tortilla chips or other grains that are offered by your waiter.
  • Think thin crust when ordering pizza and make it mostly vegetarian. 
  • Pass on the cheese when ordering sandwiches, salads, and pasta.
  • Share a meal, when you split the meal you split the calories.
  • Ask for condiments to be placed on the side.
John La Puma
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Having worked in a great restaurant x4 years (Topolobampo in Chicago) once weekly, I know that cooks don't measure salt, fat, sugar or calories...and that everything tastes better when you add them to a dish.  And that if you ask, nearly all restaurants will go light cheese on pizza, no salt on the rice, and swap out steamed or roasted veggies for french fries.

Knowing that crispy/crunchy/battered probably means deep-fried; that two appetizers will be more creative, interesting and filling choices than an entree; and that cake is for your birthday, not for your kid's, your aunt's or the waiter's, are 3 simple ways to begin to read between the lines on the menu; and take control of the table. Your table.

Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine
It is hard to make smart choices but the first thing is look at portion size.  Everything is supersized.  An example is 16 oz steak and the real true portion should be 3-4 ounces.  I also would stay away from words like cream or sauted or fried.  The best thing is steamed with lemon juice.  Also another is to look at sides.  Nothing worse than anything loaded!  Deserts can be fruit with very little whip cream.  
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine

The menu will give you the first clues to how the dish is prepared. Learn how to read a menu for hidden words that typically indicate high fat/calories (see below). Still, ask-even steamed vegetables maybe drowned in butter. You are the customer; ask politely that an item be prepared in way that supports your weight loss efforts. Ask for cheese to be left off or put on the side. Same for sour cream. Get a salad without the fried noodles on top or dressing on the side so you can control the amount you add. If you need to, check the menu ahead of time on-line and look up some of your favorite dishes to get a sense how they rate. Being prepared makes a huge difference in making healthy choices at the moment of truth! Get rid of the impulse bread eating at the start-ask that is be removed from the table or that your eating companion keep it close to their side of the table. Desserts, of course they taste good but they can also end of having more caloroies that your whole entree.

  • Creamy
  • Crispy
  • Cheesy
  • Buttery
  • Breaded
  • Au gratin
  • Alfredo
  • Batter-dipped or tempura
  • Sauces/gravies/ dressings


  • Baked
  • Broiled
  • Steamed
  • Red or marinara sauce
  • Fresh
  • Lightly Sautéed or Stir-fried
  • Blacken
  • Roasted
  • Barbequed
  • Grilled (ask for dry, often brushed with butter first)

All of the above are pheneomenal answers and I wanted to add an additional thing.  Be aware, once you are aware you automatically will make better food choices.  How do you get aware?  You log your food!

Now you may not be exact due to not knowing exactly what a chef cooks with or adds to the food but you can get pretty close.  The point is if you know where you should be (caloric intake goals) and you know where you are at (realization of calories consumed through food logging) then you will accurately be able to make appropriate choices over time.

The suggestions are wonderful and although logging will not be an overnight fix, overtime it will help you to be more aware of what you are doing and over time make better choices to fit your vision.

It is important to recognize that the reason eating out often contributes to weight gain is a result of choosing foods high in calories and eating large portions. Learn what foods are light in calories and nutrient dense. You could ask for the nutrition facts at almost any restaurant to help you make a wise food choice. A good method for ordering the right foods is to choose foods that are normally low in fat and sugar. If the entrée comes with fries, potatoes, or some other starchy side, feel free to ask your server for a side of vegetables instead. Choose low fat salad dressings and ask for sauces on the side or to be removed.
Regarding portion sizes, it may be helpful to ask for a “to go” box right away when your server brings you your food. Because most restaurants serve twice the amount of food you probably need, choose to put half of it away and take it home for later. This way, you can eat your food in the right portion size, and you always get a 2 for 1 deal!
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Eating out can be a great experience—for everyone except your gut. With Rushmore-size portions and dietary disasters in every plate, basket, and spoonful, restaurants are dangerous places. You should know that most dietary mistakes are made within the first and last 10 minutes of any restaurant experience. Some tips for book-ending your meal the right way:
  1. Return the free bread and ask if you can have cut-up raw vegetables instead. (Do this four times in a three-week period and I've found most good restaurants learn the trick and automatically make that change every time they see you—if they see you at least once a week).
  2. Order oil and vinegar in separate containers and on the side for salad dressing, and put a little on (you have to do this; relying on the wait staff or chef to do so gets you about 400 extra calories per side salad).
  3. If you're going to have dessert, order one for the table and have a few bites.
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers...
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In advance, check online menus for healthy selections. Ask for a take-out container for oversized restaurant portions or order from the children’s menu. Resist upsized offers at fast-food restaurants (the dollar meal deal, etc.), and skip all-you-can-eat buffets.

Instead of choosing the tastiest menu item, retrain yourself to ask, “What is the healthiest thing I can order from this menu?”

Another consideration is that you may need to be prepared to eat differently from others in a social situation, such as dining at a friend’s home. Gently insist that you don’t need an overflowing plate or pass on dessert.
The 10 Best Questions for Living with Fibromyalgia: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

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The 10 Best Questions for Living with Fibromyalgia: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

An indispensable resource that empowers fibromyalgia patients to take charge of a debilitating disease and get the health care they deserve. Fibromyalgia—a painful, exhausting, and often misdiagnosed disease—affects up to 12 million Americans (90 percent of them women). And because many health care professionals are still learning how to diagnosis and treat its confusing symptoms, patients living with the disorder must become proactive and informed consumers for their own health. The expert advice found within The 10 Best Questions™ for Living with Fibromyalgia gives readers the answers they need to get the best care possible and enjoy a more normal life. This essential book provides the Best Questions that patients should ask their doctors, partners, children, and friends, accompanied by the “best answers” drawn from cutting edge research and extensive interviews with the top experts in the field. There are chapters on what to ask about your diagnosis, test results, second opinions, for ongoing disease management, to lose weight, get more sleep, and to make other healthy lifestyle changes. This practical and holistic book also offers Best Questions and advice for fibromyalgia patients for their relationships with partners, children, friends to ensure emotional, financial, and spiritual health. Each chapter concludes with The Magic Question™, the one crucial question most people never think to ask until it’s too late.

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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.