Navigating Around Restaurant Pitfalls

Restaurant eating is not necessarily out of the question when you are trying to change your eating habits, whether for weight loss or for your health in general. However, a bit of pre-planning will go a long way towards helping to avoid unhealthy mistakes.

First, be sure to peruse the menu online whenever possible. You will be less distracted, and less likely to be influenced by the choices of others, by pre-selecting your choices before leaving the house. Once you have decided what to have, stick to your guns! You might even decide to pass on the menu once you get there, as you will not need it.

If your entrée comes with a starchy side, ask your server to substitute a second serving of veggies instead. For salads, always ask for the dressing on the side, and choose a dressing that you can see through – i.e. oil & vinegar, vinaigrette, etc., but nothing creamy or cheesy. Avoid “extras” on salads such as croutons, candied walnuts, cranberries (they always have added sugar!), or shredded cheese. Stick with lots of colorful veggies, and possibly a fatty addition such as avocado or slivered nuts (for satiety).

Upon arrival, ask your server not to bring a bread basket. If your dining companions object, ask them to keep it at their end of the table.

Also, ask your server to bring a “doggie bag” along with your entrée. Immediately pack up half of your meal to take home (for tomorrow’s lunch?). Restaurant portions are notoriously oversized; you will probably find that ½ of your meal is more than enough at one sitting.

For beverages, unsweetened iced tea, hot tea, or sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime will leave you feeling much more refreshed than alcohol (and they cost a lot less!).

Avoid appetizers if ordering an entrée. However, one interesting strategy to try would be to order two appetizers in lieu of an entrée. This often makes for an interesting meal with lots of unusual texture and color. Be advised, however, that many appetizers are loaded with cheese or breading, and may be deep fried. So choose carefully!

Eat your meal at a leisurely pace and enjoy the conversation with your friends. Chew thoroughly (each mouthful should be liquid before swallowing).

For dessert, how about another cup of tea or decaf coffee? If you must have something to eat at the end of your meal, many restaurants offer small cups of fresh berries, which would be a healthful choice.

Ethnic restaurants can present unique challenges. For example, if eating at a Mexican restaurant, ask your server to bring carrot or celery sticks to dip in the guacamole, rather than corn chips. Request fajitas without the shell, and possibly a small serving of black beans. Avoid the burritos, tacos, rice, cheese and sour cream. (And avoid the Margarita’s at all cost!).

In Italian restaurants, a serving of meatballs with a large side of veggies (or meat sauce over veggies) would substitute for pasta. Most Italian restaurants also serve large salads – see recommendations above.

For Asian cuisine, go heavy with the veggies and steamed/stir fried meats, and avoid anything that is deep-fried or loaded with sauce. Drink tea, and avoid the rice. Read your fortune, by all means, but leave the cookie on the plate!

You will probably find that many restaurants are now very willing to adapt their selections to your needs, as food sensitivities have become such a prominent topic for discussion in the news media. So, do not hesitate to ask!


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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