9 Tips for Eating Healthy at Any Restaurant

Restaurant food tends to have more fat, sugar and thus more calories than home-cooked meals. The focus is on taste – and not the number of calories. At the same time, we don’t want to deny ourselves the luxury of eating out once in a while. Who can say no to good company and delicious food?

Young couple eating healthy at the restaurant.

Are you on the go a lot, but still want to eat healthy at the restaurant? You can do it with these nine tips.

1. What’s in a name?
Deep-fried, barbecued, in a sauce: with these methods of preparation, you can be pretty sure that the meals are full of fat and high in calories. Choose grilled or steamed meat, fish or vegetables and skip the fatty sauces. This saves you calories!

2. Don’t be afraid to ask
You want your chicken breast grilled rather than fried and salad instead of rice? Just ask your waiter or waitress.

3. Eat until you are full and then stop
Restaurants are serving bigger and bigger portions. Enjoy your food and stop eating once you are full. Whatever is left, you can take it with you. This way you have lunch for tomorrow and you save money. Or you ask for a smaller serving – which is also usually cheaper.

Mixed salad with goat cheese.

4. A green salad always works
Order a green salad on the side. This fills you up without adding a lot of calories. Choose a light vinaigrette dressing or ask the waiter or waitress to serve the dressing on the side. But keep in mind to stay green – other salads might not be that healthy!

5. Put your smartphone away
This rule applies both at home and at a restaurant: Your cell phone doesn’t belong at the dinner table. First, you should devote your full attention to your dinner companion(s). Second, when you eat slowly and with pleasure, you are more aware of the signals coming from your body telling you it’s full.

6. Don’t go starving to the restaurant
Many people don’t eat much during the day because they know they are going out for dinner. But this is the wrong strategy: people who go to the restaurant starving do not tend to choose the healthiest choices on the menu. The better way is to eat a small snack in the afternoon. How about trying a chocolate shake or one or two energy balls?

Green salad with tofu.

7. Check out the menu ahead of time
Many restaurants have a digital version of their menu on their web page. Take a look at this before dinner and see if the restaurant also offers healthy options. Plus, you can already decide on what you want to eat. That way there’s little chance of you straying from the healthy path.

Tip: Vietnamese, Japanese and Mediterranean restaurants tend to have the most balanced meals. These days there are also many restaurants that specialize in healthy, balanced and seasonal cooking.

8. Balance is what counts
Are you dying for a burger? Sometimes, you simply have to treat yourself. Balance is the key here. You can also make healthier food choices at fast food restaurants by ordering a salad instead of fries or going with the low-carb version (lettuce leaves instead of a hamburger bun).

9. Don’t forget the liquid calories
You not only have to watch what you eat at a restaurant, but what you drink: alcoholic beverages, juices and soft drinks are loaded with calories – and they don’t make you full. Order a water or unsweetened ice tea instead. And if you can’t resist the urge to have a glass of alcohol, then try adding some soda water (like a white wine spritzer) and don’t forget to drink plenty of water afterwards.

Did you go a little overboard at dinner last night with your friends? Don’t worry about it! Just make sure to eat balanced meals and drink lots of fluids the next day.


Julia Denner Julia is a dietician and sports nutritionist. Before she began her position as Communications Specialist at Runtastic, she spent several years working as a dietician in the surgical department at Vienna General Hospital. Julia is passionate about inspiring others to eat a healthy, balanced diet. View all posts by Julia Denner