12 Healthiest Foods to Order When Eating Out

Can-do tips for eating out without guilt.

Enjoy your favorite restaurants and lose weight?! Yes, you can do it. Learn the 12 healthiest foods to order when eating out so you can make feel-good decisions that won’t weigh you down.

You might think that eating out is a no-no if you’re working to lose weight and keep it off for good. However, with a little know-how on your side, you can make healthier food choices that won’t wreck your waistline or up the guilt factor. This list of healthy restaurant foods will help you enjoy time with family and friends while lowering your calorie, fat, or sugar intake.

If you’d like to indulge in the taste you crave at home using better-for-you ingredients, try 16 Take-Out Inspired Recipes.

1. Water

Easy to order and always on the menu, water should be a staple at every restaurant meal you enjoy. Drink one full glass before the meal to help prevent overeating, and then sip a glass throughout the meal.

2. Low-cal alcohol choices

If you drink while eating out, stick to one glass of wine, beer, or a vodka and tonic. Pina coladas, sangrias, margaritas, and other fancy cocktails will be full of calories and sugar. Or you can enjoy a homemade, lower-cal version before you leave the house with this Minty Pear Martini.

3. Green salad

Order a salad appetizer and eat most of it before moving onto the entrée—it will help you control portions of protein and carbs when the main dish arrives.

4. Dressing on the side

That salad might seem like a smart choice, but your good intentions could be wasted if those greens are dripping in dressing. Always request dressing on the side so you can better control your consumption.

5. Oil-based dressings

Stick to oil-type dressings rather than their heavy-calorie creamy counterparts. You can make healthier dressings at home, too, with 12 Light Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes.

6. Veggie side dishes

If you have side dish options, always order a veggie side instead of unhealthy carbs, like refined pasta or bread. As long as the vegetables are not smothered in a heavy sauce, they’re usually a lower-calorie, higher-nutrient option. Roasted veggie menu items, like this Easy Veggie Roast, can be particularly tasty and kind to the waistline.

7. Baked, poached, roasted, or broiled ingredients

How a meal is cooked is nearly as important as what the meal is itself. Look for menu items that are baked, poached, roasted, or broiled rather than fried options. Dig into that broiled taste at home with Easy Broiled Scallops.

8. Fish

Instead of ordering red meat or chicken, try a fish dish. Fish recipes (except those that are fried) are among the healthiest foods to order when eating out. Just be sure the dish doesn’t contain a heavy cream sauce. Enjoy heart-healthy salmon any day of the week with Salmon & Avocado Salad with Lemon Dressing.

9. Whole grains

If a menu item includes refined carbs, like white rice or pasta, ask for a whole grain alternative, like whole wheat pasta, quinoa, or brown rice.

10. Good fats

From avocado and olive oil to nuts and fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), good-fat foods will satisfy your appetite, help decrease belly fat, and delight your taste buds. Take the edge off your appetite before you leave for the restaurant with one portion of Sweet and Spicy Nuts.

11. Lower-sodium foods

When you want to know the healthiest foods to order when eating out, it’s usually easier to remember what to avoid regarding sodium. Ingredients and foods like teriyaki and soy sauces, broths, pickled foods, and cocktail sauce are all high in sodium.

12. Spice done right

Some spicy dishes, like gumbos, are full of salt and saturated fats. Instead, get your spicy fix the healthy way with broiled shrimp, jambalayas, and chili pepper-based dishes. You can get that same taste at home with Spicy Garlic Shrimp.


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Amy Wagner

Amy is a writer specializing in health & wellness, business, and entrepreneurship. She's a long-time martial arts teacher who has earned a 4th degree black belt in tae kwon do. When Amy's not writing or kicking, she's wrangling sons, reading fiction, or crushing on BBC actors.

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