Dining out responsibly

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Photo credit: Valerie Cheatham


Most college students consider eating well challenging. We often lack the time and means to prepare a well-balanced meal for ourselves. While dining out is appealing, cost and calories add up quickly.

Convenience is not the only reason we frequent local eateries; most of us have social obligations as well. We want to be with our friends and relatives as they celebrate their achievements, but as we do, we often see the numbers in our bank account plummet while those on our scales climb.

The obvious solution to both these problems would simply be to not go. This, of course, is not a viable option. At the mere thought of hermit-hood we are confronted with the want—the need—to stay socially relevant. We suddenly understand the plight of the middle-aged women of the Upper East Side.

So how do we maintain a full (relatively speaking, of course) wallet and a healthy figure without resigning to hermitism? We need to find a balance. After all, healthy living is all about a balanced lifestyle, right? Here are a few tips to help you eat healthy while dining out, without breaking the bank:

Split a meal with a friend

Not only does this cut the cost, but it also helps with portion control. Most restaurants give us more food than we need. And as most of us know, if food is in front of us, we will eat it.

Be the first to order

We are more influenced by those around us than we’d like to think. When a friend ordering before us gets a not-so-healthy plate, we quickly justify ordering something equally unhealthy instead of getting our original healthier choice.

Stick to water

It is free of cost and calories. Drinks can drive up the price of a meal, and fast. I once went to breakfast with my mom and ordered orange juice. The attentive waiter refilled my glass three times. It wasn’t until we got the bill that we learned the price: $7/glass, no refills. If I have ever been my mother’s favorite child, it definitely was not on that day.

Beware of dressings

Although salads are usually the healthiest option on a menu, be sure to ask for the dressing on the side. Dressings tend to carry lots of calories and fat. Vinaigrettes, low-cal dressings, and lemon juice will be your best bet.

Be aware of what you’re eating

The best defense against a deceiving menu and tempting descriptions is being knowledgeable about what you’re ingesting. Be mindful of how a dish is prepared; opt for the grilled option over the fried. If there’s an unwanted item on the dish, ask if there are substitutions. Go for the side salad instead of the side of fries.

Make a meal out of sides

A menu usually offers enough side or á la carte options for a person to build a meal. Whenever I go to Texas Roadhouse, I only order two sides. I leave feeling satisfied, and my bill is all of $4, not including tip.

Although small, these habit changes can go a long way. Being aware of what actions lead to an email notification of insufficient funds and which habits give rise to a zipper’s refusal to close goes a long way. When in doubt, keep it balanced.

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