Eat Out, But Cut The Calories!

Healthy Choices In Restaurants And Fast Food Chains

Whether it's a business meeting over lunch, dinner from a neighborhood carry out, or a fast-food meal with the kids, eating out is a part of our lives. We eat out because it's easy, it's quick, and it's fun. But is it healthy?

It can be. Plan ahead, choose wisely, and you'll find foods that fit into your meal plan. Many restaurants are trying to meet diners' needs. More and more people want healthy food choices. Some are watching calories. Others want to keep their cholesterol under control or eat less fat.

Tips for choosing healthy foods at restaurants include:

  • Choose non-fried hors d'oeuvres.
  • Read the menu creatively. Order an appetizer as the main course, then add healthy sides. This offers a smaller portion than typical main dishes.
  • When eating breakfast out, choose cereals or muffins. Most other breakfast items are fried and high in fat content.
  • Order sauces and dressings on the side and add sparingly.
  • Instead of a basket of bread, ask for a slice.
  • When you're full, ask that the food be taken away. If enough remains, have it boxed for later.
  • Choose fresh fruit for dessert, or on occasion, split a high calorie, high fat dessert with several people.
  • Choose steamed vegetables when possible.

Healthy Choices


  • tomato juice
  • unsweetened fruit juice
  • clear broth, bouillon, consommé
  • raw (not marinated) vegetables such as celery or radishes (skip the dip)
  • fresh fruit
  • fresh, steamed seafood


  • poached
  • boiled


  • tossed vegetable, lettuce, sliced tomato, cucumber
  • cottage cheese (as part of meal plan)
  • salads with low-calorie dressing, lemon juice, or vinegar


  • whole-grain rolls or crackers, biscuits, or breads

Potatoes and Substitutes

  • baked, boiled, or steamed potatoes
  • plain rice or noodles


  • diet margarine
  • low-calorie salad dressing
  • low-fat sour cream, or yogurt


  • raw, stewed, steamed, boiled

Meat, Poultry, Fish

  • roasted, baked, broiled, or grilled poultry, fish, or seafood
  • lean meats with fat trimmed
  • dishes without gravy or sauce


  • fresh fruit or fruit juice
  • fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • ice cream


  • coffee, tea
  • milk
  • sugar-free soda

If you like the healthy choices on a restaurant's menu, let the manager know. If you want more low-calorie, low cholesterol choices, say so. Restaurants, like any business, offer what the customers want. They only know what you want if you them them.

For More Information Contact:
Nancy A. Freeman
Extension Home Economist
Harrison County Extension Service
(228) 865-4227