6 Tips for Dining Out

By Jennifer DiBiasi, WebMD Health Coach

So you’ve been eating well, paying attention to nutrition and portions and maybe even tracking intake on a fancy app. Then, after a long week, a much-needed get together lands you in a restaurant where you’re faced with a menu full of enticing options and you’re wanting them all.

A little pre-planning on your end and guidance from your server can help you stay in control of your meals while still enjoying socializing and eating out. Here’s how:

Check out the menu online.

Most restaurant menus are available on their websites and some even offer nutrition facts with it. Check this out ahead of time to get ideas of what your best options will be so you’re less likely to be wooed by the wrong choice at the moment. You can even enter information into a food-tracking app to solidify your choice.

Choose your beverages wisely.

Decide what you want prior to arriving and always drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. Whether enjoying a beer, wine or soda, sip slowly for better calorie control. Sweet cravings may be helped by choosing unsweetened tea or sparkling water with lemon or lime.

Learn the keywords.

Try to limit or stay away from dishes described as pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy. These generally indicate high levels of saturated fat, calories and salt. Instead, choose dishes that are grilled, broiled, roasted, baked, poached or steamed.

Ask questions.

If the menu description isn’t clear, feel free to ask your server about the method of preparation or ingredients used. With the prevalence of food allergies, intolerances or ethically driven food preferences, servers and chefs today are accustomed to a myriad of questions about meals and ingredients.

Request tweaks or substitutions.

Sometimes you don’t have to forgo a certain dish altogether as a minor adjustment can make all the difference. Have a dish prepared “dry” without the melted butter or cream sauce or ask for sauce or dressing on the side, for example. To reduce portion size, request the lunch dish instead of full dinner entrée or have half of the meal boxed up.

Manage the pre-meal snacking.

Breadbasket or bottomless bowl of chips headed your way? If you find these things hard to control, simply let your server know you’d rather not have it. Or, if you’re with a group, just pass it to the other side of the table.

You deserve to enjoy yourself and the food you eat. Let these tips help do this with confidence without giving up special time with others. Enjoy!

Jennifer’s education and certifications:
Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Wellness
ACE Certified Health Coach
ACSM Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist
AFPA Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

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