Healthy eating options can be found when dining out

Nights out on the town can make it much more difficult to stay the dietary course, but options do exists

The right diet is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Once people get into a routine, maintaining a healthy diet can be simple. However, when such routines are interrupted, such as on nights out on the town, it can be much more difficult to stay the dietary course.

Dining out is a great way to discover new foods. But when diners aren't careful, dining out can be detrimental to their overall health. According to the American Heart Association, portion sizes in fast food and sit-down restaurants have gotten considerably bigger over the last half-century. Many restaurants now list calorie counts on their menus, but it's easy to overlook such information and overindulge in a delicious meal while engaging in conversation. Thankfully, the following three strategies can help diners stay true to their diets while dining out.

Start simple

Perhaps because they're shared with fellow diners, appetizers tend to be overlooked when counting calories while dining out. But some appetizers, such as those that are fried or served with rich, creamy sauces, can be loaded with calories. That matters even if diners don't intend to eat a lot before their entrées arrive. When choosing a first course, EHE Health, a healthcare provider that emphasizes the power of preventive care, opt for a broth-based soup and/or a salad with dressing on the side. Both options are low in calories but still satisfying.

Learn your menu lingo

Before booking a reservation, take to the internet to find a restaurant that offers healthy fare. The AHA notes that menus may provide certain clues indicating their meals are healthy. Look for menu items described as "light," "fresh," "fit," "skinny," and so on. Meals described in such terms tend to be low-calorie options that are steamed, broiled, baked, or cooked in other healthy ways. When reading menus, EHE Health advises against choosing foods described as "fried," "breaded," "buttered," or "stuffed."

Say "so long" to certain foods

Adults who dine out infrequently may not be adversely affected by the occasional indulgence in unhealthy fare. However, people who routinely dine out may need to be more selective, as certain foods, when eaten regularly, can increase a person's risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other ailments. When dining out, the AHA advises diners to skip certain foods, such as bacon; salty meats; salty sauces, such as soy and teriyaki; French fries; white bread; white rice; and refined pasta, which is high in calories and low in fiber.

Dining out need not compromise a healthy diet. With a few simple strategies, diners can hit the town without derailing their diets.