What to look for when choosing a healthy meal while dining out?

Navigating restaurants when focused on eating healthy or when following a specific dietary plan can be quite a challenge. Dining out is typically an indulgent experience, but it is still possible to keep it a healthy one. By focusing on menu items containing lean proteins, vegetables, and dietary fiber, it’s possible to enjoy a nourishing dining experience. 

Consulting with a nutritionist can also help with navigating healthier ways to dine out. They can provide personalized guidance to meet your specific needs and goals. Knowing what questions to ask a nutritionist can also be supportive in crafting a more sustainable approach to healthy eating. Working with a nutritionist means having the confidence to navigate dining experiences and make the healthiest choices possible.

The Components of Building a Healthy Meal When Dining Out

Eating out should be an enjoyable experience. However, it can be frustrating if you’re unsure how to make healthier decisions. It’s important to pick a balanced meal that’s the most nutritious for your body. Below are some components to building a healthy meal. Let’s review the following:

Lean Protein

Protein helps support the immune system, builds and repairs tissues, and is a vital macronutrient for overall well-being. Choose dishes where lean protein such as fish, chicken, tofu, or legumes are the main feature of the meal. This helps guarantee that you’re not only getting adequate protein but healthy fats and a good balance of amino acids. 


Vegetables are an integral part of building a healthy restaurant meal as they’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber and the perfect partner to lean protein. Look for dishes that include either roasted, steamed, or stir-fried vegetables as a side dish or even a vibrant salad. 

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is found in food groups such as whole grains, beans and lentils, and fruits and supports a healthy digestive system. 

When building a healthy meal while dining out, look to include choices such as: 

  • brown rice 
  • quinoa 
  • oatmeal 
  • or whole-grain bread 

Not only do these foods provide fiber, but they also provide essential nutrients such as antioxidants, iron, and B vitamins.

Cooking Methods

It’s not just the quality of ingredients that matters when it comes to designing a healthy dining-out experience. How food is prepared can also greatly impact the nutritional value of a meal. Dishes that are heavy in oil, such as deep-fried foods, are higher in unhealthy fats. Not only does the cooking method change the structure of nutrients in foods, but it also increases the amount of caloric intake. Choose meals that are baked, steamed, grilled, or sauteed with minimal oils. 

Portion Size

The amount of food you consume is also a major factor in eating healthier. Portion control helps maintain a balanced diet, and it can be easy to overeat as most restaurant portions are larger than normal. You can either share an entree with a companion, ask the restaurant for a half portion, or simply split your meal and take the rest home. 

Sauces, Dressings, and Condiments

Something that easily contributes to sabotaging a healthy meal is sauces, dressings, and condiments. While they add flavor to a dish, they’re typically high in added sugars and sodium, as well as unhealthy fats or artificial ingredients. Look out for more natural sauces and dressings made with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and herbs and spices. You can also ask for these items to be placed on the side of your dish so that you can control the amount you consume. 


It’s important to remain properly hydrated when focused on a healthier lifestyle. What you drink while dining out also plays a role in making healthy meal choices. It’s best to avoid sugary drinks such as sodas and sweetened teas. Excessive alcohol consumption is also unhealthy and can disrupt the gut microbiome. Select water with a slice of citrus or unsweetened tea and sparkling water. 

Staying Healthy While Dining Out

When dining out, don’t be afraid to make special requests when ordering, as most restaurants are more than willing to accommodate dietary needs. Be sure to ask questions about ingredients and cooking methods so that you can be sure to make the healthiest meal choices. Keep an eye on portion sizes and heavy sauces or dressings. 

By sticking to these health-conscious mentalities, dining out can remain an enjoyable and occasionally indulgent experience. It’s important to recognize that when maintaining a structured diet plan, it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. It’s healthiest to maintain balance while making food choices that are mindful the majority of the time. Happy healthy dining!

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