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How Can I Eat Healthy When Eating Out? Print

How to Eat Out (Without Blowing Your Nutrition Plan)

You might be wondering if it is possible to eat out without blowing your nutrition plan?  The answer is YES! 

There are no bad meals, just bad diets as a whole.

If there are twenty-one meals (breakfasts, lunches and suppers) per week, even if two of them were total nutritional disasters you would still score over ninety percent on your diet if the other nineteen meals were reasonably healthy. Funny enough, I rarely meet people that look at the big picture of their total diet like this. What is your score this week out of twenty-one?

If you are like me and only eat out occasionally, find freedom in enjoying whatever you want. If, however, you eat out regularly for lunches at work, or quite a few suppers per week, it really is key for your health to be mindful of your choices.

Eating out the healthy way: dietitian advice

What makes eating out challenging?

  • Someone else controls the menu, quality of the food, and cooking methods.
  • Larger portions than we have at home, or than what our body needs, may be served which can contribute extra calories.
  • Meals are often high-fat to contribute flavor, but as a result can substantially increase calories. Often higher amounts of saturated and trans fats are used which are negative for heart health.
  • Restaurant and fast food meals are usually high in sodium. In some cases, one meal may have more sodium than is recommended per day for health.
  • While carbohydrates are essential nutrients and certainly don’t need to be eliminated for health and overall healthy weight management, often bigger portions than would be optimal for those struggling with their weight and diabetes, are served. Big portions of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, or rice, and large bottomless cups of pop are cheap and consumers perceive large volume as good value.
  • Often meals are low in higher-fibre choices such as whole grains and vegetables and fruits, all of which are good for long-term health.

Watch my previous archived TV interview from Global Morning News about healthy choices when eating out:

Global Calgary

If I eat out often how can I make healthier choices when eating out?

Consider the S’s of eating out:

  • SELECT the “right” place. This is a place that firstly offers healthy choices and secondly a place you are willing to make these choices.
  • SCAN the website in advance. Most fast food outlets and franchises post nutrition data about their menu on their website. Check out your favorite choices and compare other options.
  • SAY what you would like! You have more choice than you think; all you have to do is ask.  Think of the menu in a restaurant like a grocery list of all of the items to choose from.
  • SAUCES & SPREADS on the side or skip. Reducing dressings, mayonnaise, butter or margarine can substantially decrease calories and saturated fat in your meal.  It is always better for you to add these yourself so you can control the amount needed for taste and enjoyment.
  • SUBSTITUTIONS? Most places offer choice in your sides such as salad, soup, or steamed veggies in place of fries.
  • SHARE with a friend. This is a good way to eat less of indulgent choices but still enjoy a taste.
  • SUPPLEMENT part of the meal? Try buying part of your meal at breakfast or lunch and bringing harder to find or more expensive items such as a fruit or raw veggies.
  • SMALLER options? In restaurants, go for an appetizer-size rather than meal-size or try a half-order instead of a full-order.
  • SAVE some for later. Take some home for tomorrow or if you often tempted to overeat, ask for half your restaurant meal to be packaged up before it even arrives.
  • SLURP sensibly. Think about what and how much pop, iced tea, wine, beer and cocktails you are drinking.
  • SNACK before. Nibble on something nutritious before you eat out to avoid getting too hungry and overeating.
  • “SPEND” soulful foods wisely. Budget soulful foods chosen exclusively for taste and enjoyment, rather than nutrition, just like you manage your cash flow. Splurge on your favorites and save on others that are less important to you.

When to be flexible

When it comes to eating out I personally live by the following philosophy or mantra:

When on your own eat your best, for social fun have the rest.”

It is more difficult (and certainly less fun) to make really healthy choices with your family on Friday pizza night, when going out for lunch with coworkers or for date night with your sweetie. When you are on your own go for the nerdy nutritious choices. This means for your everyday workday breakfast, mid-afternoon snack on-the-go, eat your best.  When you are eating socially, have some fun, be flexible, and go with the flow.  This is the time to enjoy soulful foods like chips and chocolate chosen exclusively for taste and enjoyment.  You can eat anything, just not everything – it is about being intentional about your choices.

What about you?  What are some ways you have found you can be successful when it comes to eating out and managing your health?  Leave a note in the comments below as I’d love to hear from you.

If you are seeking support to help to make meal planning simple if you are cooking for one, don’t want to spend oodles of time in the kitchen or find yourself eating out often, we can help. We specialize in health without guilt or complexity. Our Calgary Dietitian / Registered Nutritionist team can work with you in person at our Calgary office or online through our virtual private and secure video conferencing services. Contact Us.

For more information about our Dietitian Calgary / Online Nutritionist services by our experienced nutrition counseling team visit: NUTRITION COUNSELING or our Digital Online Program The Pursuit of Healthiness: ONLINE NUTRITION COURSE.

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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