Okay, so, let’s get real. No matter how healthy we want to eat, no matter how much we want our kids to eat the perfect diet, no matter how much we want to avoid processed food, real life exhausts us sometimes.  (This post contains affiliate links)

Even the natural born chefs among us don’t always feel like cooking.

And even the most frugal among us end up eating out eventually. Not only that, but like I mentioned in my last post on fast food, we don’t just eat out for the food. We eat out to be social, to relax, to feel closer to our loved ones and our friends.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves in the “forbidden” restaurant? Sip on a lemon water? Pretend we’re not hungry?

No! We choose healthy or we balance what we eat the rest of the day with what we eat at the restaurant.

Firstly, lets talk about balancing what we eat the rest of the day with what we eat at the restaurant.

When my family decides to eat out, we often eat at Sweet Tomato (Soupplantation). This is because (I’m laughing) Sweet Tomato is our son’s favorite restaurant. Why? Because he likes the macaroni and cheese! I have to twist his arm to get him to eat a tablespoon of shredded carrots or a slice of cucumber with his macaroni and cheese, but he does drink apple juice (that is actually his preference).

Even at Sweet Tomato, the calories add up fast. I generally will eat some of the green salads and my favorite Broccoli Madness as well as a tad of Tuna Tarragon pasta salad. And the herb focaccia is fabulous! I like to try out the monthly soups, though there are a few classic favorites like cream of mushroom, chicken noodle that are my mainstays.

MyFitnessPal has most of the menu items from Sweet Tomato in their database, so I can estimate my calories eaten. Usually, when I eat there, it ends up being around 700 calories. This is over half of my calorie allowance when I don’t work out.

When I eat at Sweet Tomato (or any other restaurant), I try to make sure I go to the gym and workout.

This increases my calorie allowance by an extra 300-500 calories. Also, at Sweet Tomato, the salads and soups have calorie and fat information next to the food. So you can estimate as you go, if you’re into doing that.

So what else can we do when eat out to make sure we don’t completely blow our diet?

Here are 10 healthy choices when eating out I have found to be helpful when eating out.

  1. Check the nutrition facts information on the restaurant’s website. Restaurants are required to make nutrition and allergy information available to customers. 99.9% of restaurants nowadays have websites that you can access anywhere, including your mobile device.
  2. Choose the lower calorie option. For example, if you’re at McDonalds, and you’re itching for a hamburger, buy the smaller hamburger. You can also ask for no sauce. For example, with the Big Mac, you can save 90 calories by ordering it without the sauce.
  3. If you must have the high calorie option, eat half at the restaurant and save the other half for later.
  4. Order just the sandwich and a salad instead of French fries OR order just a salad.
  5. Pay special attention to calories in salads, however. Salads sometimes have more calories than a large cheeseburger, depending on what’s on them.
  6. Use low calorie salad dressing or limit the amount of regular dressing you put on your salad.
  7. Order the sandwich without cheese.
  8. Drink water instead of soda.
  9. Remember that just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it’s lower in calories. For example, the Green Burrito Bean, Rice and Cheese burrito has more calories than a Carl’s Famous Star with Cheese (Green Burrito and Carl’s Jr exist together at many restaurants, in case you didn’t know that).
  10. Remember that no matter what you eat, no matter how low calorie or low fat, if you’re eating fast food, the sodium is going to be horrifically high. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to eat out when you know you shouldn’t.

Click here  for a comparison chart of a few restaurant menu items that I put together to help get you started.

Check out this article to find out more about what attracts kids to fast food.