Dining-Out Dilemma: 6 Ways to Eat Healthier at a Restaurant

Healthy Dining

When your stomach tells you it’s feeding time, how do you respond?

  • Grab your healthy brown-bag lunch and bottle of water.
  • Whip up a meal in the kitchen made from fresh ingredients.
  • Hit the nearest restaurant or drive thru and munch your way through an entrée, sides, and a drink.

If your diet looks anything like the typical American’s (fast food, burgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken, soda, etc.), you’re not alone.

Did you know…1 out of every 5 calories you eat comes from restaurant food?1

Yes. It’s possible to order healthy food from the menu. You know…

  • The leafy-green salad
  • The soup of the day
  • Sans-bun with burger + lettuce wrap
  • Vegetables instead of fries
  • The fruit parfait
  • Water instead of soda, milkshakes, or sugary coffee drinks

But guess what? A lot of people don’t make the healthy choice, even when it’s an option.

In the study, researchers found that:

  • 70% of all fast-food meals are of poor dietary quality
  • 50% of all full-service restaurant meals ordered are of poor nutritional quality
  • The typical fast food or restaurant entree contains 1,200 to 1,500 calories. And that doesn’t include drinks, sides, or desserts!

The dining-out dilemma

Cooking healthy food at home more often is the better option. But if you are going to a sit-down restaurant, ordering take-out or hitting a drive-thru, you can make healthier restaurant choices.

Here are SIX easy ways to eat healthier at a restaurant:

  1. Find out how many calories are in a meal, before you order.
  2. Place half your meal in a to-go box before you start eating.
  3. Split a meal with someone else.
  4. Order from the kid’s or senior’s menu.
  5. Pick a side dish as your main course.
  6. Ask the restaurant staff to make you a smaller portion.

You hungry? Before you go out to eat, order a meal online, or find the nearest drive-thru, take a closer look at these tips to eat healthier.

You’ll be glad you did.


1. Liu., J., et al. (2020). Quality of meals consumed by US adults at full-service and fast-food restaurants: Persistent low quality and widening disparities. The Journal of Nutrition, 150(4): 873-883. From: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/150/4/873/5696668