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Healthy Tips to Dining Out
by Mark Izhak, Nutritionist

Imagine you’re at a restaurant after finally putting your kids to sleep. You’ve been up since the early morning to get your exercise, got the kids out of the house and it’s been a hectic work day. Now you’re finally able to relax and enjoy a meal at your favorite place to eat. After one glance at the menu, you know what you want. It’s one of your favorite dishes in the restaurant. But you also know that it will destroy all the hard work you did at the gym. Naturally, you should order the salad with the dressing on the side.  It’s the most rational choice. But honestly, you’ve had a long day and you deserve to treat yourself.

Stop right there. That’s the point where most people jump ship and abandon any impression of a healthy diet. Let’s look step by step at how to make your order without making a mess of your diet.

Appetizers and Drinks

When you order your appetizer, keep in mind some of the calorie killers. Fried and starchy foods may give you as many calories as your main dish! Avoid them by ordering some vegetables with dressing on the side or a non-creamy soup that is light in calories, offers you a ton of vitamins to ease your stressful day, and will curb some of your appetite so you don’t inhale your main dish.

A wonderful way to gain weight is to order a drink with plenty of calories. Stay safe and go for a non-calorie drink. Order a diet anything or just plain water. If you want wine to complement your entrée, a glass of red wine is recommended.


Restaurant food is typically flavorful and plentiful, which mean they are high in calories. Unless you’re walking home (and you live in the next state), you need to make some changes. You can cut out a lot of wasteful calories with two changes. First, ask them to go light on the sauce in your meal. Typically, your food is soaked in delightful juices. By going light, you still enjoy the flavor and save yourself another 30 minutes on the treadmill. Also, substitute your side for a healthier salad. Enjoy your meal for the great food you ordered it for, not it’s sidekicks.

The great thing about restaurants these days is they offer overly generous portions, but it would be sinful to force it down in one sitting. To dine out regularly without the guilt, don’t overeat. What I love to do is wait till everyone at my table has begun eating until I start and spend more time talking to who you’re with. This gives your body time to tell you that you’re satisfied, before you need to let your belt open a notch. Take your leftovers to go. Not only will you still enjoy your favorite meal for supper, but for lunch the next day.

Think Vegan

There’s no doubt that a vegetarian diet is healthy. Vegans typically have a healthy body weight and avoid many lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Having a vegan meal at a restaurant is great because you get the health benefits of a meal that would be too time consuming for you to make at home. Order a dish with a variety of vegetables. When checking the menu, look for a meal that has vegetables of different rich colors; green and red peppers; white onions; yellow squash; green zucchini. Again, ask for light dressing or get it on the side.


For a great night out, you can still avoid the high fat meats by ordering lean protein and get a ton of omega 3’s. Tuna steak or sea bass are great alternatives, and unless you own the restaurant, you won’t be eating it every night, so the mercury levels shouldn’t trouble you. For women and children (under 6) who should eat no more than two servings a week, tilapia is a terrific low mercury fish.

Take your veggies and fish and wrap them up for your next meal. Sushi is a fantastic choice; just look for more broiled or steamed rolls. Put it together with a soup and you’ve get yourself a fine meal. If you’re looking at a sushi menu and find yourself stuck between several rolls that look too good to pass up, order them all, but share them with a few friends. This will allow you to have just a few of those less healthy tempura (fried) pieces, while maintaining your diet. And unless you’re in some sushi eating charity race, remember to put down the chop sticks between bites.

Remember, the most overweight, unhealthy people are the ones that eat the same thing all the time. Without a variety, the only satisfaction you end up getting from your meal is eating a lot of it. So enjoy different meals, try new things, and take the time to enjoy your company and your meal.

Mark Izhak has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. He is the founder of Sunrise Bootcamp, a fitness program created for people to lose weight, tone their bodies and live healthier lives. You can get his ‘7 Steps to Skinny Jeans’ by going to www.Sunrise-Bootcamp.com


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