Restaurant Eaters Tip List

No matter where you choose to eat, the same smart-eating strategies can guide you: plan ahead, consider the menu, and choose foods carefully. An occasional meal with elegant, creamy sauces or a rich dessert pastry needn't upset your overall plans for healthful eating. What and how you eat over time is what counts.

Plan Ahead

How can your restaurant choices fit into your whole day's eating plan—without overdoing on calories or "underdoing" on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, or milk? How can you enjoy the variety of food available in today's restaurant scene?

  • Map out your restaurant plan of action. Perhaps plan for a light dinner out if you just ate a big lunch, or decide ahead to split a dessert, even before you see the menu. If you know ahead that your restaurant meal will have more calories or fat, just trade off: cut back during other meals that day or the next.
  • Eat small meals earlier, rather than skip breakfast or lunch to "save up" for a fancy restaurant dinner. This meal-skipping strategy often backfires. It's easy to overindulge at a restaurant when you're over-hungry.
  • Looking for convenience, saving time, a flavor adventure, or a lower-calorie meal? Some restaurants offer more food variety, ethnic cuisine, unique dishes, smaller portions, and lighter cuisine than others. A restaurant that prepares food to order allows more control for any special requests; call ahead to find out. A handful of today's restaurants let you call or fax your order ahead so the kitchen is ready for you.
  • Go with a "smart eating" mind-set, which may help you sort through the menu faster and avoid straying from your goals. Use the menu on the restaurant's Web site to plan your order ahead.
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