Making Healthier Choices When Eating Out

women eating fast food fries

Maintaining a healthy diet can be challenging when eating fast food on a busy day or treating yourself to a dinner out. Use these tips to help you make healthier choices when eating out:

  1. Choose smart-drinks like water, unsweet tea, or milk. Remember that coffee, alcohol, and even juice can have a lot of added sugars. 
  2. Start your meal with a salad so you fill up on healthier foods first. Choose one with lots of veggies, and ask for the dressing on the side so you can use a smaller amount. 
  3. If the restaurant you are at serves large portions, feel free to order an appetizer or side dish as your meal, or split a regular entree with someone else. This will also save you money!
  4. Pack snacks so you aren’t tempted to stop for fast food to fill up! Fruit, nuts, granola bars, and string cheese are all good choices if you tend to get hungry on your commute or have a long day of errands planned.
  5. Choose veggies as your side and fruit as your dessert instead of fries and sugary sweets. 
  6. Check out the nutrition information on the menu–lots of restaurants list the calories next to the dish, and many will have this information available somewhere else. If you don’t see it, just ask!
  7. Go for steamed, broiled, or grilled dishes instead of fried as these tend to have fewer calories and be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.
  8. When you order bread, sandwiches, or pasta, ask for 100% whole-wheat. Many sit-down restaurants and even some fast food chains will have this on hand even if it’s not listed on the menu. 
  9. Leftovers are your friend! Don’t feel pressured to clean your plate. Instead, eat until you are full and take the rest home for later. Leftovers will last about 3-4 days in the fridge. 
  10. Don’t stress too much. If you don’t eat out that often and maintain a healthy and well-rounded diet at home, a few fries or a soda every once in a while is okay.

Find out more at Choose MyPlate

Written by: Bethany Helm, Student Employee

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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

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