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Dining out on a diet: What to order

Dining out doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your diet plan, as there are healthy choices in almost every restaurant. Here are some helpful suggestions on what to order while dining out — without blowing your diet.

Shrimp cocktail at a restaurant

Avoid diet pitfalls when dining out. Try these dishes and substitutions to keep your diet in check.


  • Replace fried breaded shrimp with a shrimp cocktail.
  • Order soup. Choose a stock-based soup that’s loaded with veggies, beans and pasta. Try a tomato basil soup or a minestrone, instead of the “cream of something” that is undoubtedly on the menu.
  • Have a tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing or a squeeze of lemon juice. Some restaurants offer a low-fat dressing alternative, but those often come enhanced with extra sodium and sugar to add flavour.
  • Choose seafood. Mussels in a tomato–wine broth, oysters with an herb vinagrette or fresh, non-breaded crab cakes are generally lower in fat and calories than some breaded, cheesy or fried appetizers can be.
  • Enjoy bruschetta. Olive oil is one of the ingredients, but some fats are necessary for optimum health, and this is one of the best. Watch the bread intake and double up on the tomato topping instead.
  • Avoid creamy cheese dip with bread or chips and choose hummus with veggies sticks instead.

Main course

  • Forget the steak fries and battered onion rings. Choose a baked potato with chives and fresh cracked pepper or a side of garlic mashed instead —but keep in mind, some eateries may add butter or cream, so check it out first.
  • Some cuts of beef are marbled with fat, so forgo the porterhouse and rib-eye. A lean, grilled steak such as a top sirloin is a better choice.
  • Hollandaise and other egg- or dairy-based sauces are diet killers. Choose a wine- or stock-based sauce instead, and ask for it on the side.
  • Order veggies with a bit of lemon juice instead of oil or butter.
  • Avoid pasta covered in cream and cheese and go for something tossed with roasted veggies or seafood instead. Tomato sauce, bolognese, a bit of pesto or a non-creamy sauce with lean proteins are also diet-friendly options.
  • Go for the lean proteins. Choose the broiled chicken or steamed fish as a simple and tasty option.


  • While there are several options to a sweet treat after dinner at home, many restaurants primarily offer calorie-rich desserts. Choose fresh fruit or yogurt whenever possible or share a dessert with your whole table. A bite or two will nip your cravings in the bud and finish off the meal with your diet still intact.

More tips

  • Ask your server. If you have any questions about what’s in a dish he or she should be familiar with the food on the menu and, if further information is required, will be able to ask the kitchen staff. As well, most restaurants will be willing to accommodate certain dietary requests, so make sure to ask.
  • Drink plenty of water. This will help fill you up and keep you from over-eating. For a boost of flavour, garnish plain or bubbly water with a lemon or lime twist.
  • Watch the portion sizes. A serving size is still a serving size, whether you’re paying restaurant prices or not. Take home your leftovers for another day.
  • Share with a friend. An easy and fun way to eat out is to share an entree or appetizer with a friend. The portion size will automatically be cut in half, which might help you not to stray too far off your diet plan.

More on healthy eating

Snacks that won’t wreck your diet
50 Ways to cut 100 calories
6 Healthy eating myths — debunked

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