7 Tips for Eating Out Healthy

couple out having a romantic dinner
In this technology-focused world, going out to dinner offers a real opportunity to put the phone down, sit across from family and friends, and enjoy a meal!

by Lindsay Tigar

Busy times call for strategic measures — and sometimes, you just can't be bothered to head home and whip up a nutritious meal. That's totally OK! You shouldn't feel guilty about stopping by a restaurant for dinner with friends; you deserve to indulge every now and then. In these situations, you can simply focus on some tips for eating out healthy.

In this technology-focused world, going out to dinner offers a real opportunity to put the phone down, sit across from family and friends, and enjoy a meal, great conversation, and laughs.

There's nothing like good food to bring people together, and with some simple solutions and modifications, you can stay aboard the health train and still enjoy time out with your best pals. From choosing the healthiest dish to creatively dealing with oversized portions, consider the following seven tips for eating out healthy.

1. Skip the Bread Basket

Ah, bread. It's warm, fresh, and delicious. Many restaurants automatically bring a bread basket (or chips and salsa) to your table at the start of your meal. While it's a hospitable gesture, it can fill you up before your main course even arrives! Try to resist the temptation and focus on chugging water or sipping your drink as you wait for your meal instead. This way, you can enjoy your entree for all it's worth.

2. Be Strategic With Your Choices

If you want to enjoy an appetizer before your entree, that's perfectly fine. Just try to balance your options. For example, if your entree doesn't have a lot of vegetables, order an appetizer that does. Or if your appetizer doesn't offer a lot of protein, choose an entree that does.

This allows you to enjoy a well-rounded meal and experience the best of all worlds! If you're looking to reduce how much you eat in a single setting, consider ordering an appetizer as your main dish, as they tend to be smaller than entrees (but are still plenty filling).

3. Split an Entree

Not only is this an effective way to remain healthy when dining out, it's helpful for your wallet, too! If you and your date are eyeing the same entree, consider splitting it. It's a win-win.

If you and your dining partner have your eyes on separate dishes, you can simply order the entree you're craving — but ask the server to cut the serving in half and box up the rest. That way, you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch the following day and still get more bang for your buck.

4. Hit the Gym First

Have a workout pal who loves to wine and dine? There's strength in teamwork (and power in numbers) when you join your workout buddyfor a gym session and a meal. If you fit in a good workout before dinnertime, you can treat yourself to your favorite restaurant guilt-free. Plus, your metabolism will be fired up after exercising, so you may naturally decide to eat less.

5. Don't Be Afraid of Modifications

When you aren't whipping up the food yourself, you're never really sure of how it's cooked — or what's baked inside. Another way to stay healthy while dining out is to speak up! Especially as more and more eateries become aware of and sensitive to dietary restrictions, you should feel empowered to request the chef replace butter with olive oil, or heavy cream with coconut milk, and so on.

6. Take It Slow

You should always try to eat slowly, even if you're feeling super "hangry." If you eat too quickly, you won't have a chance to truly enjoy your food (or your company, for that matter). Try to chew each bite thoroughly and swallow before taking another forkful. This gives your digestive system — and your mind — time to catch up. Also, don't forget to enjoy the conversation between bites!

7. Allow Yourself Indulgences

So ... there's a chocolate sundae staring at you on the menu. No need to panic! You don't have to deny yourself your favorite treats when you dine out. One of the best tips for eating out healthy is giving yourself permission to savor those mouth-watering nibbles, and enjoyingeverything in moderation.

If you want to take a healthy approach to a sugary dessert, simply order one and ask for multiple spoons so everyone can share in the delicious experience. Remember, nothing brings people together like good food!