Updated: 2/5/2020 Everyone eats out from time to time. Socially, we like to go out with friends to a nice restaurant. Corporately, eating out at a restaurant is a great…

Happy Group of Friends Eating at Healthy Restaurant

How to Dine Responsibly: Eating Healthier on a Low Budget

Updated: 2/5/2020

Everyone eats out from time to time. Socially, we like to go out with friends to a nice restaurant. Corporately, eating out at a restaurant is a great way to treat a client and gain or keep that business relationship. Conveniently, it’s an easy out from having to make something for yourself at home. But how can we eat out while still eating healthier and not breaking the bank? Do we need to refuse invitations to go out to stay healthy and save money? Not necessarily.

While the best way to eat nutritiously and save money is to cook at home, we don’t always have that option. In this post, you will find ten helpful eating tips for dining out at restaurants that won’t blow your 2,000-calorie-count for the day in one meal and can hopefully save you a bit of money as well.

1. Order a Healthy Appetizer

If you’re on a tight budget, I would recommend skipping this step. However, if you have a little more to spend then ordering a salad or soup to begin your meal is a great way to start, as opposed to filling up on too much bread.

2. Choose the Right Sauce

Red is better. Marinara or tomato sauce has a lower fat- and calorie-count than cream sauce and contains more vitamins and minerals. White pasta sauce is more fattening because of the use of butter and cheese to give the sauce that creamy texture.

3. Dressing and Sauce on the Side

By ordering the dressing and sauce on the side, you get to choose how much goes onto your meal, thereby controlling your calorie intake.

4. One is Enough

On occasion, it’s okay to order an alcoholic beverage with a nice meal, but remember that one is enough. Not only does alcohol add more calories to your meal, but it also lowers your inhibitions so before you know it you’re eating more food than you should. And if you’re on a tight budget, I highly recommend not purchasing alcohol with your meal. It adds so much more money to your ticket at the end of the night.

5. Go for the Nutrients

Although white bread, white rice and white pasta may be delicious, they lack fiber and many other nutritional ingredients. As a substitute, try brown rice and whole-wheat pasta and limit how much white bread and crackers you eat.

6. Portion Control

This is one of the most important tips we can give you—watch your portions. Typically restaurants give us entirely too much food. If you’re not careful, you will find yourself consuming the entire plate, doubling your calorie intake. What are some ways you can watch this?

    • Share your meal with your friend. By doing so, you can easily control your portions and you’ll leave the restaurant feeling satisfied rather than feeling so stuffed you’re miserable. You’ll also be able to split the cost of the meal with your friend and save some money.
    • Ask your waiter for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and immediately divvy up your food. That way, you won’t be tempted to eat it all at once. You’ll also be getting two meals for the price of one!

7. Avoid Fried Dishes

This is not an easy tip to apply, especially living in the South. We are tempted by fried food everywhere we go. However, there are other wonderful dishes that would make great substitutes to the fried food we consume. When you are tempted to order fried food, try ordering baked chicken or grilled fish instead.

8. Eat Your Vegetables

By adding vegetables to your meal, you add more vitamins, fiber content and calories that are good for you! It also makes your plate appear fuller.

9. Resist Soda

Not only will you avoid unnecessary calories by resisting soda with your meal, you can cut the cost of your meal ticket down and help protect your teeth (For more information on the latter tip, see The Worst Soda for Your Teeth). Make yourself drink water or flavored seltzers instead.

10. Share Dessert

This goes back to portion control. Instead of consuming all of those calories by yourself, share a dessert with your friend. By doing so, you will cut your calorie intake in half and cheapen your bill once again.

Another idea for eating healthier and saving money while dining out is planning ahead. Healthydiningfinder.com is a great tool that allows you to search your surrounding area for healthy eating places, or restaurants and fast food places that include healthy meals on their menu. You can then search for their prices and see if it’s within your budget.


Natasha is 1Dental’s managing editor and copywriter, focusing content on dental and health news, advice and tips straight from the experts. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has since been a book editor and now copywriter and managing editor on dental and health. You can find her on Twitter and all of 1Dental’s social networks.

  1. What’s wrong with going out and eating/drinking whatever you want?
    Most people go out to dinner to enjoy the meal, not continue their usual healthy diet!

    • Hi Ceallie, it is fine to splurge on a delicious meal every once in awhile, but if it becomes a regular habit, you will see your health begin to decline. This article was intended to help those who either eat out regularly or are looking for healthier options at restaurants. In no way do we mean to discourage you from eating out and/or having fun. Thanks for reading!

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