Carolinas HealthCare System

According to a recent study, consumers will dine out less in 2014 not because of cost, but because they want to eat healthier. It’s no wonder. You have less control about what goes into a dish when dining out than when preparing meals at home. Dining out doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, however.

According to Laurie Ross, a Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute registered dietitian, making healthy choices at restaurants goes a long way. “By ordering foods without added salt and/or oil and making special requests (such as “hold the cheese”), one can stick to a healthy eating plan and not feel guilty when going out to eat."

1. Look for the American Heart Association Seal of Approval

If the AHA says it’s good for you, it probably is. Look for the heart check symbol on menus at restaurants.

2. Double-up on Side Salads

Most fast food restaurants offer simple side salads for less than $2. Get two, use one dressing and you have a nice, filling alternative to french fries.

3. Go Light on the Sauces and Dressings

Ask for them on the side. Dip your fork and then take a bite. You’ll get the same flavor but fewer calories.

4. Put a Third of your Meal in a To-go Container

Don’t be shy about asking your server at a restaurant to place 1/3 of your meal in a to-go container. They’ve seen it before. And you’ll eat less.

5. Split Meals

One person orders a salad, one person gets an entrée. It’s a great way to reduce calories without foregoing taste.

6. Ask for Slight Menu Changes

There’s nothing wrong with asking to hold gravy or leave off the biscuit. You’ll save calories without sacrificing taste.

7. Skip the Starch

Get two sides of veggies. Even if there aren’t that many veggies on the menu, most restaurants will prepare them for you if you ask.

8. Go out for Lunch Instead of Dinner

 Portions are typically smaller and cost less.

9. Ask for a Veggie Plate

Don’t see a whole lot of healthy options on the menu? Ask for a veggie plate. It’s filling, tasty and easy for most restaurants to prepare.

10. Lose the Bun

Ordering a fast food hamburger? Did you know 80 percent of carbs in a burger are in the bun? And that the bun accounts for half the calories? Skipping the bun is the healthiest way to eat a not-so-healthy burger.

11. Go Global

Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Mideast restaurants have dozens of great tasting, low-calorie meals. And they’re usually very affordable.

12. Skip Pre-meal Bread, Crackers and Chips

It’s not always easy to do, but the calories saved will really add up. 13. Go boiled, baked and grilled. Even a baked potato is better than french fries. Just remember not to over-compensate with butter and sauces.

14. Look at the Menu Online

Decide on a healthy option before you get to the restaurant. Your decisiveness in ordering will help you stay away from unhealthy options.

15. Don’t Be Fooled by Menu Names

You may see “crispy” or “lightly battered” but it all means the same thing: fried food.

16. Chew Slowly

It takes the brain 20 minutes to process the “full” feeling. By chewing more slowly, you give your stomach a chance to realize you’re full.

17. Order from the Menu – Not the Buffet

Buffets can be tempting and fast. But your best bet is to order a sensible meal from the menu.

18. Easy on the Drinks

Alcoholic and sweetened drinks (iced tea and lemonade) may go great with some meals, but they add unnecessary calories. Try seltzer water with lime instead.

19. Save Desserts for Special Occasions

Most desserts are packed with calories. Try a simple bowl of fruit topped with Greek yogurt when you get home.