It can be very, very difficult for eating healthy when you dine out and optimally it is pretty much impossible to eat 100% healthy at any typical restaurant. But here's a few guidelines taken from the Zone Diet, which I do not follow per se, however couldn't agree more with their recommendations. I've also expounded and added a few of my own.
The Healthy Dining Rules For Eating Out.
1. Never eat the rolls. If you’re going to eat carbohydrates, save it for dessert.
2. Always choose a clean protein entrée and ask to replace any starches or grains with extra vegetables. Be sure to ask what oils they use to prepare them. If it is not olive or coconut oil then ask to get them steamed and never boiled. We want them as close to alive as possible.
3. While waiting for dinner, have a glass of water... or two. This will curve your cravings and fill you up a bit.
4. If the protein you order is significantly greater than the size of your palm, take the excess home.
5. Determine whether the carbohydrates on your plate are favorable or unfavorable. If you’re eating favorable carbohydrates, have double the volume of carbohydrates compared to the protein portion.
So what is a "favorable" carbohydrate you ask? Good question! I would say that if they are alive, close to alive, and are colors of the stoplight (red, green, yellow/orange) than you're in favor.
6. If dining out is not complete without dessert, then don’t eat any grains or starchy carbohydrates during the meal. Order whatever you want for dessert, but eat only half. Share it with someone else and never take the leftover dessert home. If you do you'll eat it.
These are all good for dining out, but I would personally still eat as many non-starchy veggies as I can get with my meal, no grains, always starting with as big of a salad as I can get, drink only the substance of life (aka good ol H2O) which is what I do anyway, and then if I wanted dessert I'd have it. I rarely eat the dessert when I'm out anyway cause when I get home I have amazing Coconut Bliss icecream made dairy free (coconut milk instead), soy free, gluten free, and the Cherry Amaretto flavor is TO DIE FOR. :)
Most of the time I dine out only a one or two times a month so it's definitely a treat and not an all the time thing; however there was a time that I'd eat out almost every day. I really do enjoy going out, but it's ultimately not healthy to eat right off the menu when ordering. Always modify and tweak menu items the way you should in order to enjoy the dining experience and remain as healthy as you can. Sure the food is great, but overall dining out- to me- is more about the atmosphere and company than anything else.