Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’ve been focused on eating healthy especially since the new year started, here are some tips to still stay on track while you’re dining out. 

I always tell patients that if it’s available, check out the menu online ahead of time and decide what they’re going to order. This simple trick can be helpful in preventing any last minute cravings if you sit down hungry. Keep in mind that restaurant portions are usually much larger than what we would normally eat at home. To avoid overindulging, plan to eat enough so you feel comfortable and not stuffed. If you experience FOMO (fear of missing out), you can always take your leftover food home to enjoy the next day. Now let’s look at some healthy menu options.

Appetizers

I always recommend starting with salad, and before you say that sounds easy, let’s discuss the dressing which is where the calories are hidden. If you’re given a choice for dressing, I recommend choosing balsamic/oil based dressings over creamy ones for the lowest calories. Ask the waiter to put the salad dressing on the side, this way you can add it to the salad yourself to keep it lighter. 

Entrees

When ordering the main entrée, try choosing lean protein dishes like chicken, steak or fish. I always tell my patients to look for three key descriptions – grilled, sautéed or baked. These  options are going to be healthier than fried foods. For side dishes, it may be hard to resist the French fries but take a second to remember your goals and ask the waiter for a healthier swap like fresh veggies.

Drinks

Sometimes we drink our calories without realizing it. If you’re going to order a drink, try choosing something light like a wine spritzer. These will have less calories than a regular glass of wine. If you prefer hard liquor, it is best to mix it with club soda or sparkling water and a lemon or lime instead of soda and juice. For more information on “healthier” alcoholic drinks, check out this blog

Dessert

This can be the most tempting part of the meal – especially around Valentine’s Day when dessert menus seem to be filled with every mouth-watering treat available. My best advice is to split dessert with someone else instead of ordering your own. This will help cut the sugar and carbohydrates in half. A bite or two of a lava cake, cookie or brownie is fine. If you’re looking to keep it healthier, most restaurants will have some type of fresh berries that will have less sugar and more fiber than traditional desserts. 

Going into the evening with a plan is a great way to stick to your weight loss goals. For more questions about meal planning, call us at 908-481-1270.

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    By: Karen Kelly, R.D.

    Registered dietitian Karen Kelly is available for nutrition counseling every Tuesday in our Springfield and Hoboken locations. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and the College of Saint Elizabeth where she received her registered dietitian degree. Karen found her true calling by helping people make better nutrition choices to improve their health. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association, the New Jersey Dietetic Association, Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Nutrition in Complementary Care as well as Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition.

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