Going to a restaurant shouldn’t be your excuse to eat unhealthy. Follow these tips and not only will you enjoy your meal more, you’ll feel satisfied and happy when you’re done.

Some restaurants can be ticking time bombs when it comes to nutritional health, most restaurants do have healthier options in their menus  — if you know how to look for them. You can also rely on these tips to help making eating out a healthier treat.

1. Ask for it your way. Dining out is no time to be a meek consumer, you need to be an assertive consumer by asking for changes on the menu. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with french fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a smaller portion of the meat and a larger portion of the salad; for salad instead of coleslaw; baked potato instead of fried. Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it. Very often, the restaurant will cooperate.

2. Ask to “triple the vegetables, please.” Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really like garnish—a carrot and a forkful of squash. When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra. You’ll probably never be charged and won’t get disappointed. Time to get full not fat!

tripple vege

 

3. Ask how the food was prepared. Don’t go by the menu. For instance, cholesterol-free does not mean fat-free; the dish could still be filled with calorie-dense oil. Neither does “lite” necessarily mean light in calories or fat.

Couple cooking at home

 

4. Order from the “healthy, light, low fat” items on the menu. Some chains will even list the calories and nutritional content of such foods. Some restaurants like Nutritious Nation and Gyms Kook lists the nutritional information for its entire menu.

low fat

 

5. Eat Slow. Most people eat too fast, and, as a result, they take in too many calories before they realize they’ve eaten enough. It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. Not only does eating slowly and mindfully help you eat less, it enhances the pleasure of the dining experience.

eat slow 2

 

6. Split a entrée/main course with your dining partner. A survey found that some restaurants often serve two to three times more than food labels list as a serving.

share food

 

7. Try double appetizers. If there is a nice selection of seafood- and vegetable-based appetizers, consider skipping the main course and having two appetizers for your meal. Often, that is more than enough food to fill you up.

8. Order a salad before ordering anything else on the menu. Some scientific studies found out that those who ate a big veggie salad before the main course ate fewer calories overall than those who didn’t have a first-course salad.

salad

 

9. But remember: Salads shouldn’t be fatty. This is a vegetable course—keep it tasty but healthy. That means avoiding anything in a creamy sauce (coleslaw, pasta salads, and potato salads), and skipping the bacon bits and fried noodles. Instead, load up on the raw vegetables, treat yourself to a few well-drained marinated vegetables (artichoke hearts, red peppers, or mushrooms), and for a change, add in some fruit or nuts. Indeed, fruits such as mango, kiwi, cantaloupe, and pear are often the secret ingredient in four-star salads.

10. Watch the add-ons to vegetable salads. Even salads that are mostly raw vegetables are a problem if they’re loaded with cheese and meats. Take the typical Caesar salad in most restaurants (the one topped with chicken or shrimp as well as plenty of cheese and mayo in the dressing). Add in the fried croutons and the calories add up to a whopping 560, with 36 grams of fat, 6 of them saturated. Italian antipasti salads also are a health challenge, with all their salami, spicy ham, and cheese. Get the salad, but ask for vegetables only.

11. Do the fork dip. The best way to combine salad dressing with salad? Get your dressing on the side, in a small bowl. Dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.

12. Order from the menu before you leave home. Lunchserved has listed most of the menus on the mobile app. You can order before you ever hit the hostess stand what you’re going to order. Conversely, if you don’t see anything that’s healthy, pick another restaurant. Checkout on Lunchserved  for some good options.

13. Read between the lines. Any menu description that uses the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, or stuffed is likely loaded with hidden fats—much of it saturated or even trans fats. Other “beware of” words include: buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, Thermidor,  Parmesan, cheese sauce, scalloped, and au lait, à la mode, or au fromage (with milk, ice cream, or cheese).

Read Between the Lines

14. Ask the waiter to skip the bread basket. If you must have something to munch on while you wait for your order, ask for a plate of raw vegetables or some breadsticks.

15. Skip the fancy drinks. If you must order an alcoholic drink, forget the margaritas, piña coladas, and other exotic mixed drinks. They include sugary additions that only add calories. Opt instead for a glass of wine, a light beer, a vodka and tonic or a simple martini (without the chocolate liquor, sour green apple schnapps, or triple sec).

light drink

 

16. Top a baked potato with veggies from the salad bar. Or ask if they have salsa—the ultimate potato topper, both in terms of flavor and health. Just avoid the butter and sour cream.

17. Order fish. Just make sure it’s not fried. You can order seafood so many different ways—steamed, baked, broiled, sautéed, blackened, or grilled. Mix any sauces, or ask for them on the side.

grilled fish

 

18. Drink water throughout the meal. It will slow you down, help you enjoy the food more, and let the message get to your brain that you’re full—before your plate is empty.

drink water

 

19. Always dress up to go out. Even if it’s just a regular family restaurant. If you view eating out as an event or a treat, rather than a way to get an everyday dinner, you won’t eat out as often. And that’s good from both a health and a cost standpoint.

20. Skip the dessert. You can always have some sorbet or even a small piece of chocolate at home. That is much better healthwise than the Triple Chocolate Meltdown or a mountain of ice cream topped by a second mountain of whipped cream.

no dessert