7 Tips to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

What's Hot

2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Going out to eat doesn't have to mean letting yourself go. With some quick and easy advice, you can save calories and maybe even a couple of bucks.

If your New Year’s resolutions included losing weight, restaurants are making it easier for you to meet your goal.

For example, last week Chili’s introduced its Lighter Choices menu, which features seven entrees with less than 700 calories each.

But Chili’s is just the latest restaurant to hop on the healthy bandwagon. Over the past year, Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory, and even Denny’s have introduced leaner, lighter menu options.

This healthy trend is expected to continue this year, further shaping the restaurant business, according to NPD Group, a retail research company. But even if your favorite restaurant hasn’t yet cooked up a low-calorie menu, you don’t have to give up eating out. These tips will help you eat healthier at any restaurant. Last year, they helped me lose 10 pounds without really trying…

1. Go online before you go out

You can’t watch what you eat if you don’t know what you’re eating. So before you leave home, take five minutes to look up the menu and nutritional facts of the restaurant you’re headed to. Use that information to decide what you want to eat, or at least narrow your choices down to the dishes that aren’t laden with twice as many calories or grams of fat as a normal meal. You’d be shocked at what restaurant menus don’t tell you.

This is how I discovered, for example, that Pei Wei Asian Diner‘s signature dishes are two-serving entrees. So if you eat one yourself, you could end up consuming as many as 1,300 calories!

To find a restaurant’s nutritional facts, search for the restaurant name followed by “nutritional facts” or “nutritional info” or just “nutritional” or “nutrition.” If that doesn’t work – some restaurants like to hide it – try a more advanced search tactic…

Find out the restaurant’s website address and then Google for site:address.com nutrition. Make sure you do not put a space before or after the colon, but do put a space after the address. So for Pei Wei, for example, you’d Google for site:peiwei.com nutrition.

You can also use the HealthyDiningFinder.com search engine to find healthy dishes at nearby restaurants. This website, funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identifies dietician-approved dishes that “emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats, and meet calorie, fat, and saturated fat criteria.” Just enter your ZIP code into the “SEARCH” box to find approved dishes in your area.

2. Skip the appetizer

Restaurant appetizers often have as many calories as a normal meal. So even if the appetizer is free, your waistline will still pay a price.

Take, for example, T.G.I. Friday’s $10 appetizer-plus-entree deal. I’m all for deals, but I won’t order that one. To me, a deal doesn’t justify consuming hundreds of additional calories when I know the entree is enough to fill me up. Besides, in the long run, becoming overweight costs more than the few bucks an appetizer “deal” would save you.

3. Water down

One of the easiest ways to cut costs and calories while eating out is to order water. Unless you drink 15 refills, restaurant soda will cost you several times more than gasoline. And even if you only drink a glass or two, it can still add a couple hundred extra calories to your meal.

Plus, studies have shown that downing a couple glasses of water before a meal helps to fill you up, causing you to eat less. According to the Mayo Clinic, it also aids digestion.

4. Compromise

If you’re going to splurge, limit it to one menu item. If you order a hamburger, for example, ask for a vegetable side instead of fries.

5. Rethink dessert

Restaurant desserts can be as bad as appetizers when it comes to calories and fat – not to mention the price. If you can’t imagine skipping it, or if it’s a special occasion, you can at least cut your calories and fat intake (and your cost) in half by sharing dessert.

Also, keep in mind that just because you ate dinner at a certain restaurant, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to eat dessert there too. I often head to the nearest frozen yogurt place instead. You can also go home for dessert.

6. Limit yourself

Another way to cut costs and calories is to simply eat out less. It’s one of the best ways to save money or put more money toward paying off debt. And the more often you eat at home, the less often you’ll be tempted with options that can easily amount to 1,000 to 2,000 calories and dozens of grams of fat in one sitting. If possible, try reserving restaurant trips for special occasions or occasional treats.

7. Use a coupon

The healthier restaurant options are sometimes the more expensive options too. But I find that when I have a coupon or a Restaurant.com certificate, I don’t feel bad about ordering, say, salmon. In fact, because restaurant coupons are usually worth several times as much as the average coupon, a coupon often means you can order a healthier but costlier meal for the same price as a cheaper but unhealthier meal.

So be sure to visit our deals page before you head out, and read How to Cut Your Restaurant Bill in Half if you’re unfamiliar with Restaurant.com.

Karla Bowsher runs our Deals page, writes “Today’s Deals” posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and covers consumer and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: What You Should Do — and Not Do — When Meeting a New Dog

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,032 more deals!