5 (Healthy) Ways to Save in Restaurants

Sure, you can find coupons and two-for-one sales in newspapers and online to get discounts at all types of restaurants—and you should take advantage of these savings. But instead of waiting for a special deal, you can eat out almost anywhere, on any day, and get more nutritious meals by spending less money. Here's how:

Go Vegetarian. Often (but not always), vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian dishes are less expensive than meat dishes. Even most fast food restaurants have vegetarian offerings that may be healthier than their standard fare. For a protein boost, choose dishes or side dishes that contain beans, lentils, or soy foods such as tofu.

Drink Water. It's better for you than a soft drink, you need to drink at least eight cups a day anyway, and it's free. You can always ask for a wedge of lemon or lime to give your water a flavor boost. Ask for your water as soon as you sit down to the table. Drinking a glass of water before your meal can help you eat less and make smarter choices because you will feel a bit less hungry.

Share Your Food. Some of the same tips given for watching your weight at restaurants also apply to watching your wallet. If it's just you and your dining partner, order a soup or salad for each of you, and split an entrée. If it feels like too much deprivation to completely give up dessert at your favorite restaurants, order only one and split it with the table so that everyone gets a bite and no one overdoes it.

Go Out for Late Lunch.  The same restaurant meal at lunchtime is often much less expensive than the same or similar meal offered for dinner. If lunchtime prices are good until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, eat a late lunch, and call it early dinner. If your entrée comes with side dish choices, choose salad over soup and non-starchy vegetables over potatoes. Eating your heartiest meal of the day a little earlier than normal dinner time is easier on your digestive system. Follow it with a light meal or snack at home in the early evening.

Choose Budget Cuisines. Indian, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants are among those that can be much less expensive than other restaurants, yet still offer healthier fare. Choose carefully, however, because all of these cuisines can be loaded with fat and salt. Avoid anything fried, battered, or heavily sauced, and choose dishes that feature beans or tofu, poultry or seafood, and lots of vegetables. Steamed, grilled, stir-fried, or "light" versions of favorite dishes are your best bets.




University of Minnesota Extension: Enjoy Dining Out For Less. Web. June 2012