12 Tips to eating out healthfully

Feb 2, 2009 at 5:32 p.m. ET

Eating healthfully doesn't mean you have to give up dining out. With a little info and few good ideas, you can even enjoy your heart-happy approach. Most restaurants are glad to accommodate special requests, and you can find something healthful to eat at almost any establishment.

Woman Eating SaladUse these ideas to make sure your next meal out is not "to die for":

Healthy tips for eating out:

1. Portion control is key. Most restaurants in the US serve far greater amounts than what is recommended or even reasonable. To get your money's worth, just ask for a takeout box ("doggy bag") before or when your meal is brought to you. Immediately box half your meal and set it aside. Your stomach won't even know the difference, since most of us eat long past the adequately full point. Plus, you'll have another meal to enjoy at home tomorrow.2. Go with broiled or baked. Whenever possible, eschew breading and grease. You can do both by requesting that your items be broiled or baked rather than fried.3. If you're eating red meat, ask that your piece be trimmed of fat. 4. Move the salt shaker to another table.5. Ask for dressings, gravies, etc. "on the side." For salads, dip your fork into the dressing, then pick up some lettuce. You'll use far less dressing. The same approach works well for gravies.6. Ask what kind of oil the cooks use, and if they'd prepare your meal with vegetable oil rather than lard.7. Ask your server not to bring you the bread basket. He or she may be able to substitute some raw veggies and dip, sliced tomatoes or similar in its place.

8. Drink water
with a slice of lemon, rather than sugary sodas and juices. Red wine in moderation has shown to be good for your cardiovascular health, but do stay away from high-calorie, sugary cocktails.9. Eat slowly and enjoy the flavor, texture, aroma and ambience.

Dessert's not out of the question. Just ask for some sliced in-season fruit (even if it's not on the menu, it's probably back there in the kitchen), perhaps with a dollop yogurt if available.11. Ask if you can have an additional serving of vegetables (such as broccoli or green beans) or fruit in place of potatoes.12. Savor the evening and make it last by taking a stroll afterward. Not only will you have a richer experience to remember... but a healthier one, too!