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How to Make Heart Healthy Choices When Eating Out

Following a heart healthy eating plan is more of a lifestyle than a diet. It may have been recommended to you by your doctor because you have or are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are all reasons that a heart healthy lifestyle can be beneficial. Even if you are not at increased risk for heart disease, establishing a heart healthy lifestyle can play a key role in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting an overall healthy body.

The main principals of a heart healthy diet include emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins while minimizing processed foods, salt and added sugars. Once you have to basic understanding of the recommendations, it’s relatively easy to follow at home and even while you’re eating out. After all, any meal plan that is viewed as a lifestyle needs to fit into your day-to-day and be conducive to maintaining long term.

Follow These 5 Tips for Healthy Eating When Dining Out

1. Plan Ahead

Use the resources available such as online menus and nutritional fact sheets to help you plan ahead when choosing a restaurant. Today’s technology is an advantage to you; look for places that identify healthier meal options on their menus. Consider calling ahead to ask if substitutions are allowed or to inquire about the type of oil they use for cooking.

2. Choose Baked, Broiled or Grilled vs Fried

Choosing lean meats and proteins such as chicken, fish and turkey is important, but so is the method of preparation. Be sure to select or request that your protein is baked, grilled or broiled rather than deep fried. The breading or batter on the protein is heavy on carbohydrates and salt, not to mention the amount of added fat you will get due to the deep frying process.

3. Stick to Healthy Fats

Not all fat is bad. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil are good for your heart because they help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which lower your risk for heart disease. Ask the server what fat is used in the kitchen and order accordingly. This is where a special request may be made or if need be, skip the unhealthy fat all together.

4. Be Aware of Added Salt and Sugar

Things like sugary drinks, appetizers and desserts are all extras and should be limited when eating out. Added sugars and salt can be found in excess in these items and commonly push an otherwise healthy meal over the edge. Be cautious of empty calories and avoid using the salt shaker at restaurants, rather chose unsweetened tea with lemon and flavor your dish with herbs or garlic for a punch of flavor.

5. Focus on Fiber

Fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods are available at most restaurants and contribute to a heart healthy diet due to their fiber content as well as being naturally free of salt and saturated fat. Consider choosing fresh salad or steamed vegetables as complements to your main dish and requesting dressings, sauces or gravy on the side. Create a plate that is balanced, colorful and filling so that you enjoy every bite and feel good afterwards.


The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Available at Accessed on May 6, 2022.

Dining Out Doesn’t Mean You Have to Ditch Your Diet. Available at

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