Eating Healthy in Restaurants

Although it’s nice to treat yourself to a decadent meal without worrying about calories, sometimes (especially when you’re trying to eat healthy), throwing caution to the wind just isn’t practical. The good news? Healthy options are available at just about any restaurant, you simply need to know where to look. From eating well while on the road to navigating a fast food menu with ease, we’ve compiled our favorite tips for ordering smart without sacrificing your right to dine out (or your social life).


The first lesson of eating healthy when traveling is to not equate being on the road with getting your diet off track. Instead, do your best to eat small, frequent meals that are protein packed. Drink plenty of water (sometimes dehydration can be confused as hunger), and pack non-perishable healthy snacks like nutrition bars and trail mixes to avoid that hotel mini bar.

8 Tips for Eating Healthy in Restaurants

Let’s face it: A majority of our social interactions happen over food, so even if you’re sticking to a healthy meal plan, chances are you’ll still want to enjoy an evening dining out with loved ones. Not to worry! Be prepared and stay on track with these healthy eating restaurant hacks:

  1. Review the menu in advance: A little research can work wonders for helping you avoid tempting calorie-laden dishes. Take a moment to check out the restaurant’s online menu, if possible, and make a healthy selection before you arrive.
  2. Bring your own salad toppings: From a low-cal dressing to some crunchy seeds or nuts, tucking a couple healthy toppers in your bag can jazz up even the most mundane garden salad.
  3. Order a salad as a starter: Fill up on fiber before the meal comes, and you’ll be less likely to over-indulge.
  4. Opt for an app instead of a main: Ever notice how appetizers are sometimes just as filling as a main dish (not to mention half the price)? Swap your main for a starter, and you’re likely to exercise a little portion control while still enjoying your meal.
  5. Swap out sides to load up on veggies: Steak comes with a side of mashed potatoes? Ask to swap the tots for steamed veggies to up the nutrient factor.
  6. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side: Overly drenched dishes can put your diet in a tailspin. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side to regulate portions.
  7. Order fish: It might sound simple, but selecting a fish dish is often a lighter, more vitamin-rich choice (especially if the fish isn’t cooked in butter or topped with a rich sauce).
  8. Finish with fruit: If you don’t want to totally skip dessert, enjoy a sweet finish with some fresh berries or crisp melon, if available.


Cheese. Sour cream. Tortilla chips. It might seem tough to enjoy a guilt-free meal at a Mexican restaurant, but it’s possible. Guacamole is a healthier option, especially when paired with fresh veggies instead of chips. Salads topped with grilled chicken, black beans, and pico de gallo is another healthy choice. You can also ask to swap tortillas for lettuce cups when ordering tacos.


Hey, sometimes it’s tough to find healthy options when you’re on the go. But grabbing a quick bite at a fast food restaurant doesn’t mean you have to settle for a sad side salad. Not only do most fast food spots display each item’s calorie count, but there are usually a handful of options that aren’t quite as diet-busting as a supersized burger and fries. For a protein punch at popular quick-service burger joints, for example, choose the grilled chicken sandwich sans mayo (which delivers roughly 26g of protein), or get your burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun (and skip the soda and fries). The sous vide egg white bites at a well-known coffee chain are 170 calories and 7g of protein so opt for those instead of a muffin.


The trick to eating light at a sushi restaurant is to avoid rolls that are battered and fried, drenched in mayo-based sauces, and packed in a lot of white rice. Order sashimi instead of the special roll, steamed edamame over tempura, brown rice over white rice, and a nutrient-rich seaweed salad over house salads with creamy dressings.


Believe it or not, a loaded up burrito can cost you about 1,235 calories (aka about a day’s caloric intake). Take a leaner approach by choosing a bowl or salad rather than a burrito and pile it with protein, beans, brown rice (or none at all), lettuce, fajita veggies, and green chili salsa instead of sour cream. You’ll save about 900 calories.

by Jillian Gordon for Thrive Market