Decoding Restaurant Menus

How to avoid unhealthy options when dining out
Published January 21, 2016

Whether you're celebrating a special occasion or just taking a night off from cooking, dining out at restaurant can be a wonderful experience. However, things can get a bit complicated when you're trying to stick to your SmartPoints budget. While you know you'll be getting a delicious meal, you can be never too sure what ingredients are being used. Sure most menus will list the most prominent components, the type of meat, the vegetables, whether there are noodles or rice, etc. But what isn't always listed is how large the portions are, how much butter was used in the sauce, or whether those 0 value veggies were sauteed in oil. But never fear, dining out does not need to sabotage your healthy eating patterns, it just takes a little education and preparation.

So, what's on the menu?  These savvy tips will help you green light some faves!

  • Look up menu items in the tracker or on the restaurant's website before you go to make sure there are options that fit into your plan.
  • Order your meal first so you won't be swayed into making a less healthy choice when you hear what others order.
  • If entree portions are too large, consider ordering two low SmartPoints value appetizers instead of an app and a main.  Or a salad and main, or a salad and a non-cream based soup.  Or split an entree!
  • Skip the buffet.  Order your food à la carte.  Buffets may be economical but they can cost you plenty of SmartPoints.
  • Don't be shy about special requests, such as mixed greens instead of fries on the side.
  • Resign from the clean plate club.  Eat half your meal and take home the rest. Have it for lunch the next day!

The next time you’re eating out, keep these buzzwords in mind:

Go for:


Try to avoid...

au gratin