How to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

Planning a special occasion dinner on the town or just a break from the kitchen? Dining out can be social and relaxing, but it can also be healthy with some planning. We all know that life sometimes gets in the way of cooking a healthy meal at home, but if you think about ways in advance to eat healthy on the go, your heart and waistline will thank you.

Since I eat a primarily plant-based diet, I always look at the menu ahead of time. Some restaurants offer nutritional information on their websites which is a way to learn about items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. If it is a special occasion dinner where the sides are a la carte and the portions are large, I will eat mostly sides and take the rest home for another meal. Or, I will swap out a carbohydrate-rich side for an extra helping of veggies. Another way to control portions is to order an appetizer (or two!) for your meal or share a meal to keep the calories (and cost) to a minimum.

When ordering a salad as a meal or appetizer, ask for the dressing on the side and instead of pouring the dressing over the salad, dip your fork into the dressing and then take a scoop of greens. A few other tricks to curb overeating (at home or out to dinner) is to drink water before and during a meal and put your fork down between bites. If you have a late reservation, eat a healthy snack before you go so you don’t dive into the bread basket the minute it hits the table.

The American Heart Association offers some easy swaps below to help you make the healthy choice when eating out:


  • bacon, sausage & fatty, salty meats
  • white bread, rice and pasta
  • cream-based or cheese soups
  • deep-fried, pan-fried, extra crispy, creamed, stuffed
  • French fries
  • refried beans
  • sour cream, queso
  • salty sauces like soy, teriyaki, cocktail, au jus
  • all-you-can-eat, supersize, buffet
  • traditional desserts, cookies, ice cream
  • soda, sweet tea, sugary cocktails


  • skinless chicken, fish, lean meat
  • whole-grain bread, rice and pasta
  • broth-based soup with lots of veggies
  • grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, poached
  • baked potato or side salad
  • pintos or black beans
  • guacamole, pico de gallo
  • light sauces flavored with herbs, spices, vinegar, wine
  • a la carte, light menu, salad bar
  • fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts
  • water, 100% juice, diet soda, seltzer, spritzers

Quote of the Week:

“We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.”

~ Gloria Steinem

Recipe of the Week: Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

If you are looking for ways to get your vegetable and fruit intake for the day, this recipe is for you! I adapted the recipe from The Real Food Dieticians. One note for the next time I make it (feedback from the family taste test) is I would blanch the cauliflower and broccoli so they are slightly tender and brighter.


    2–3 small heads of broccoli, chopped (3–4 cups)

    1 head cauliflower (3–4 cups)

    1 medium apple, diced

    2 celery ribs, diced (3/4 cup)

    1/2 medium red onion, diced (1 cup)

    1/2 cup dried cranberries

    3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (sub sunflower seeds for nut-free)

    2/3 cup Lemon Garlic Dressing (see recipe below)

    1/3 cup mayo

    1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (optional)

    Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except for the dressing, mayo and thyme. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon dressing, mayo and fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the large bowl and toss until well combined. Let salad sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow veggies to marinate in the dressing. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

Prep tip: This salad can be made a day in advance. Add the walnuts just before serving so that they keep their crunch.

Homemade Lemon Garlic Dressing:

Whisk together –

    1/3 cup organic olive oil

    3 Tbsp. lemon juice

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

    1/2 tsp. sea salt

    1/4 tsp. black pepper

Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Published by

Leslie Ouellette

Listening and learning about nutrition, exercise, and health-related issues has been a life-long passion turned into action. I am most passionate about my family, friends, and good health. I am a business professional with over 30 years of expertise in marketing, market research, communications, writing, and editing. @balancedhealthblog

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