Week #3 in Monthly Nutrition Series

Put you Best Fork Forward-at Restaurants
~ Theresa Welt, RD

Restaurants might seem off limits when you’re thinking about nutritious foods. Restaurant meals can be a little tricky to navigate at first, but a few small changes can make your restaurant meal a little bit better for you. Put your Best Fork Forward at restaurants with the following tips!

Watch Your Portions

Restaurant meals are often large enough to make two, sometimes three meals! “Dinner” portions are often times larger than “lunch” portions. Ask your server about ordering a lunch portion at dinner time. Over-eating your large portion can be hard to avoid when all the food is sitting in front of you. Ask your server for a to-go box when your meal is served and box up part of it right away. If fast-food restaurants are more your thing, purchase the smaller sizes. Limit super sizing your meals and drinks.

Salads Save Calories?

Salads often times seem like a “safe” food item, but watch out! Salads topped with tons of cheese, fried tortilla chips, or bacon bits add unnecessary fat and calories. Many restaurant salads are smothered in 3-4 servings of salad dressing as well. A nutritious salad should be full of vegetables and lean protein such as grilled chicken, salmon, or beans. Ask for a smaller amount cheese and half the dressing, or ask for them on the side. Limits fried toppings or ask for a much smaller amount.

Swap You Sides

Who doesn’t love a heaping side of French fries with their meal? French fries are not to be excluded completely, depriving yourself of something can only make you want it more. If you order fries as your side, try splitting it with others at your table. If you’re willing to swap your fries for another side, vegetables based sides are one of your best options. Grilled asparagus, roasted broccoli, or a side salad is a great way to sneak vegetables into you dinner. Fruit cups or broth based soups are great substitutes as well.


This might seem like a no-brainer, but sharing a large portion of food can help you reduce the amount you consume. Split a meal with a friend, or order a couple appetizers to share as your “meal.”  Thinking about having dessert? Choose either an appetizer, or a dessert per meal, not both. It’s okay to treat yourself, so why not invite a couple friends so they can treat themselves too!

Choose a Smart Drink

Water is always the best option for hydration, but also unrealistic for some restaurant outings. Whether you are going to a restaurant for happy hour, a celebration, or just a dinner after a long week, you might be thinking of having a bit of bubbly. If consuming alcohol, limit to 1 drink. Choose low calorie drinks made with soda water and fresh lemon or lime, a glass of wine or champagne. Avoid drinks with added sugars like blended/frozen drinks or fruity cocktails made with multiple juices or nectars. When it comes to alcohol, simpler is typically better. Order water as well, and be sure to stay hydrated.