Tips for Dining Out

A person reads a menu at a restaurant.

Dining out may be a treat after a busy week or a fun way to celebrate a special occasion. However, it can be challenging to make healthy choices when doing so. Check out these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you navigate the menu the next time you find yourself dining out.

Nutrition information

Many restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and quick service vendors are required to provide nutrition information about their foods and beverages right on the menu. The amount of calories for foods that are regularly offered should be listed next to items on menus, order boards or next to the food being served on buffet lines. The information posted on the menu is usually limited to calories but sometimes a restaurant may list other nutrients to show that the food is low in fat or high in protein. If you like to plan ahead, many restaurants also have nutrition information available online, which can help you select healthier options before you arrive and reduce pressure you may feel to order quickly.

Restaurants aren't required to have nutrition information available if they have fewer than 20 locations. If nutrition information isn't available for an item, consider the following tips when you're deciding what to order.

  • Limit items that are fried or served in sauces that are high in calories and saturated fat.
  • Some terms to be mindful of include:
    • Crunchy, Crispy, Battered and Breaded
    • Creamy, Cheesy, Alfredo
  • Items that are often lower in calories and may be more healthful options include terms such as:
    • Baked, Grilled, Roasted, Steamed
    • Al Fresco, Marinara

Make the Right Choices for You

Nutrition needs vary from person to person. Choose the foods that fit your health needs, eating style and preferences. These tips may be helpful when trying to make the best choices for you and your family:

  • Consider the calorie information when deciding between different dishes and what to order. Remember that side dishes add calories too; consider steamed vegetables or fruit as an option.
  • Save half your meal for later or ask for a meal to be split for a more appropriate portion size when servings are large or high in calories.
  • Rethink your drink. Calories from beverages can add up quickly, especially if there are free refills. Choose healthier options like water or low-fat or fat-free milk or drinks that are calorie-free, such as unsweetened coffee or tea.
  • Ask for sauces and dressing on the side to help control how much actually goes on your food.

Find Your Healthy Eating Routine

Everyone has their own, individual nutrition needs. Focus on variety, amount and nutrition when choosing what to eat and drink, even when eating out. Start with small changes to build your healthy eating routine now and into the future.