Healthy Lifestyle Nutrition

The Secret to Dining Out Smarter

secret to dining out smarter

Want to know the secret to dining out smarter?

If you’re like most people, you enjoy dining out occasionally. But if you’re trying to be healthier and lose weight, dining out can be challenging. How do you make good choices when there are so many options? And how do you avoid overindulging? This blog post covers the 11 essential tips you need for dining out smarter. By following these simple guidelines, you can enjoy food without feeling guilty or sacrificing your health.

Healthier Dining Out Approach

Pssst… the secret to dining out smarter is to take a healthier and more nourishing approach.

There’s no question that dining out can be a lot of fun. It’s an opportunity to connect with people you enjoy, while getting a much-needed night off from cooking and doing dishes. And everyone can order exactly what they want. In other words, it’s nourishing on more than a physical level. Dining out allows you to indulge your senses and support your sanity.

Eating healthy is great, but doing it ALL the time can be unhealthy. That’s right; it’s unhealthy to be too restrictive with your diet. No one likes to feel deprived. It’s much better to take a fun and flexible attitude towards eating well. You deserve to enjoy food without feeling guilty. Keep reading to learn how to dine out without compromising your health.

10 Tips for Dining Out Smarter

Follow these tips to dine out smarter and improve your overall health. By making small changes, you can enjoy restaurant meals without sacrificing your progress.

1. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to make healthier choices when dining out is to plan ahead. Set up for success by viewing menus online ahead of time. Pick healthier options before you arrive to avoid unhealthy temptations. Planning also allows you to avoid the hassle of looking at menus with a hangry group that’s ready to eat anything and everything. If you start craving pasta or know you can’t resist that chocolate cake, then make it a cheat meal (tip #9).

2. Stay Hydrated

It’s much easier to dine out smarter when you’re hydrated. Sometimes you think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. To replenish your body and prevent overeating, hydrate before you get to the restaurant AND before your meal. Enjoy water with lemon or lime juice, cucumber slices, or fresh fruit. Select simple, minimal-ingredient beverages, such as sparkling water, unsweetened tea, or kombucha. Limit caffeinated beverages to one cup daily and choose dairy-free creamers like unsweetened coconut, almond, oat or hemp milk.

drink lemon water to dine out smarter

3. Eat More Mindfully

Mindful eating is a practice that helps you dine out smarter AND improve your relationship with food. When you eat mindfully, you’re more aware of the foods you’re consuming and how they make you feel. By improving how you eat, you’ll naturally improve what you eat. Eating mindfully encourages better food choices, more meal enjoyment, and less overeating. Start by engaging your senses to savor all of the delicious flavors and aromas present. Pause and put your utensils down between bites. This helps you stay present and chew more. Although it seems simple, this combo of small changes and awareness produces amazing results.

4. Choose Whole Foods

When dining out, choose whole foods over processed options. This is easier said than done, but definitely worth it for your health. Choose quality proteins such as free-range chicken or wild salmon. Stick with simple preparations like grilled, baked, or steamed items. These cooking methods are less likely to damage the nutrients in food. Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa are also good options. And don’t forget your veggies!

5. Enjoy More Veggies

One easy way to dine out smarter is to eat more vegetables. Packed with nutrients and fiber, veggies are a key part of a healthy diet and can support weight loss, digestion, and overall health. Aim to fill up half your plate with colorful, non-starchy vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus. Boost nutrients by eating salads and opting for lettuce wraps over bread. Starchy veg, such as red potatoes and sweet potatoes, are better options than refined carbs, like pasta, bread, and chips.

eat more vegetable at restaurants

6. Go Gluten-Free

Go gluten-free when available. Foods containing gluten, such as bread, baked goods, pasta, barley, etc., contain high amounts of the herbicide Roundup. This herbicide contains the TOXIC chemical glyphosate that contributes to inflammation, digestive issues, and many other health problems. So go gluten-free or glyphosate-free when possible. And if you can’t resist bread, select sourdough or “sprouted” varieties and make it a half sandwich.

7. Get the Right Fat

Natural fats are an important part of a healthy diet and help you feel satiated to prevent overeating. When dining out, choose dishes made with healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed oils, such as vegetable or canola oil, which are high in unhealthy inflammatory omega-6s. Request that any sauces, dips and dressings be served on the side. Swap sugary low-fat dressings for olive oil and vinegar. Lastly, do your best to avoid anything fried or deep-fried.

8. Swap Your Salt

Salt is added to most restaurant foods and can be challenging to avoid. Excess sodium intake can lead to dehydration, water retention, high blood pressure, and other health issues. Start reducing sodium by avoiding extra salty foods like cured meats, cheeses, condiments, pickles, and sauces. Order dishes unsalted when possible and either skip the salt or pack a little shaker of sea salt to sprinkle. Sea salt is a much healthier option than table salt. Table salt contains sodium, chloride, aluminum anti-caking agents, bleach, and other harmful additives. In contrast, sea salt is natural, balanced, and contains over 84 minerals. Dulse and kelp seaweed flakes are also great, mineral-rich alternatives.

9. Learn to Lemonize

Lemons are a refreshing secret ingredient for dining out smarter. This citrus fruit is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants that reduce inflammation and support the immune system. Lemons also aid in digestion, promote detoxification, and boost weight loss. Add fresh lemon juice to veggies, salads, chicken, fish, tea, and water for extra flavor. At restaurants, always order water with lemon. If you’re not a fan of lemons, try adding sliced cucumber or mint instead.

10. Strategize Your Splurges

Let’s face it, sometimes you don’t want to dine out smarter. You want to splurge! But, before you go overboard, the best way to indulge is to plan 2 cheat meals a week or follow a 3-bite rule. The three-bite rule is exactly as it sounds, enjoy three bites and call it quits. Make your cheat meal special. Take your time, savoring each bite and letting go of ALL guilt. Food is more than fuel. Allow yourself to nourish your body, have fun and be social.

woman eating dessert at restaurant

11. Choose Better Booze

When it comes to dining out smarter, alcoholic beverages are a pitfall for many people. But there are easy ways to make better choices. First, nix most mixed drinks and beware specialty cocktails that sound like desserts. Second, opt for healthier libations made from simple ingredients like a spirit straight-up, lite beer, or red wine. Pinot Noir is top shelf as it contains decent amounts of the anti-aging antioxidant resveratrol. Third, beware portion sizes like oversized wine glasses or bucket margaritas. A standard drink is only one and a half ounces of liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Lastly, before and after every alcoholic beverage, drink at least 16 ounces of lemon water.

Healthier Dining Out Examples

Restaurant Healthy Eating Checklist

  • Drink water with lime or lemon juice.
  • Eat mostly colorful carbs, such as veggies and fruits
  • Add non-starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes
  • Enjoy quality proteins
  • Choose healthy fats such as avocado, hummus or olives
  • Ask for sauces, dips, and dressings on the side
  • Go gluten-free when possible
  • Avoid breaded or fried items


  • Omit croutons, bread, roll, & other baked goods.
  • Add protein such as beans, lentils, fish, or chicken.
  • Ask for simple dressing*.

American Cuisine

  • Grilled steak, chicken, fish or other protein
  • Add veg: asparagus, broccoli, spinach, red potatoes

Middle Eastern Cuisine

  • Greek salad with chicken/salmon and hummus with carrots/cucumber
  • Omit croutons & order dressing on the side. 

Burger Joint

  • Omit bun & fries 
  • Add lettuce wrap with tomato, pickles, mustard, onions
  • Enjoy a side of veggies, fruit or salad

Chinese Food

  • Select simple proteins.
  • Avoid anything fried, breaded or coated in sugary sauces.
  • Add steamed brown rice.
  • Enjoy extra veg (broccoli, carrots, peppers, spinach, etc.).
  • Avoid noodles and keep sauces to a minimum.

Mexican Food

  • Mushroom, chicken or fish tacos, taco salad or fajitas.
  • Opt for corn tortillas for tacos.
  • Choose non-re-fried beans.
  • Add peppers, onions, salsa, & guacamole.

Pizza Place

  • Order a gluten-free thin crust or a cauliflower crust.
  • Avoid processed meats such as pepperoni & ham. 

Sports Bar

  • Chicken, fish, steak or black bean burger
  • Swap fries for a baked potato with guacamole/salsa/hummus.
  • Add steamed veggies and avocado.
  • Add a side salad with dressing *

* For a healthier dressing, enjoy olive oil and vinegar

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