No matter if you are diligent about meal prep, or fly by the seat of your pants most of the time, everyone finds themself navigating drool enticing menus and revisiting those, “just go for it” moments when the waitress asks for our order. It’s easy to walk into a restaurant with the best intentions for sticking to healthy menu choices, but follow-through can be extremely difficult.

You’ve probably heard some advice in this area before, and I love this idea of jumping online ahead of time, looking at the menu, or calling to see what best options will be, but really? Although it can help make healthier choices, it isn’t always practical and doesn’t help you navigate the tempting splurges once you’re in the restaurant. 

Here are eight ways you can set yourself up to make better choices when eating out.

  1. Always, always have a snack before you go.

    Unless this is the one day a month, you eat out, and it’s truly a special occasion, do yourself a favor and have a healthy snack before you head out. When the menu comes, and you’re not about to eat your arm off, you will be much more successful in not going full send when the waitresses show up at your table. Try FBomb nut butter packets or Heather’s Choice Packaroons.

  2. Don’t drink your calories.

    It’s easy to throw a glass of wine or your favorite signature cocktail on the order, but adding alcohol to the mix will entice you to order higher calorie meals, and eat more of it. Stick with water or an NA spritzer and keep your good intentions intact. 

  3. Be aware of the calorie bombs on the salad menu.

    It’s easy to lean toward salads as a safe way at “staying on the healthy train,” but be cautious of salads that pack a calorie punch. Don’t assume that because it’s green, it’s good. Ask for the nutrition facts if they’re not listed on the menu and request the dressing on the side. 

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask how your meal is prepared.

    A significant portion of the calorie content can be laced into the cooking methods. Ask for baked instead of fried, toppings on the side or omitted, and steamed or grilled instead of sauteed. 

  5. Order your food before anyone else.

    Do you know when you are sitting in your seat scoping every tray of food that comes by then funneling through all the self deliberation about why you should order it or not? The same thing happens when your table peers spout out their order before yours, especially if they aren’t following the same healthy principals you are. Make contact with the waiter or waitress first, and give your order. Also, be sure to keep your last-minute changes or additions to a minimum.

  6. Plan for the leftovers.

    If you are already pressed to get meals prepped and are on a busy schedule, order a meal, and BEFORE IT COMES. Ask for the second half to be boxed and bagged before it hits the table. I can’t caution you enough here, don’t ask for the box after the fact or do it once it arrives, this is especially important for those who may have a habit of overeating. 

  7. Do you want bread with that? That’s a hard NO… thank you!

    If you plan to overindulge, start with the all you can eat bread and butter. As amazing as those warm rolls and perfectly melted butter are, they aren’t doing you any favors in the healthy eating department. Tell them no, thank you, and stick to it. 

  8. Share a meal with your friend or partner.

    Chances are the place you’re eating follows the theme of most modern eateries and serves up a mondo portion of its goodness. Save yourself some money and calories by opting to share an entree with a friend.

Making last-minute decisions to meet friends for dinner, catch lunch at a popular new spot, or grab and go on the road doesn’t have to derail your nutrition habits. Be aware of potential sticking points when ordering out and use some of the tips above to stick to your plan.

For those of you who may need a little more help here and want to make Meal Prep a part of your weekly routine, check out this article, Meal Prep Made Easy. Use this as your method for saving time, sticking to good for you eats, and crushing your fitness goals.