Making Healthier Choices When Eating Out

  By: Itzel Dzul H., B.S., CSUN Dietetic Intern

Oftentimes, our busy schedule makes it difficult to make time to prepare home cooked meals. We might also find that our weekends involve going out to eat for special occasions and socializing. Next thing you know, we are eating out more often than we should. Throughout the years as a student, I learned that it is possible to make healthier choices when going out. Part of being healthy means eating balanced meals that include nutrient rich foods from food groups such as protein, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Not only does eating healthier reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, but from personal experience, it helps you feel confident, energized for the day, and focused. Do you eat out more than once a week? If so, do not panic! You do not have to restrict yourself from buying foods from fast food places or going out with friends. Choosing healthy meals when going out can be fun as it is almost like playing the role of a detective! The following tips aim to help you create a healthy meal when going out.

Three tips to remember when going out to eat are:

1)   Include fruits and vegetables in your meals.

MyPlate recommends making half of your plate fruits and vegetables. To create a balanced meal, you can choose to include a side of fruits or vegetables instead of french fries or a dessert. It can also be helpful to start your meal with a salad or vegetable soup.

2)   Look for key words on the menu.

Here is where your skills as a detective come in play. The menu always includes key words that make it easier to point out healthy foods. Choose foods that are steamed, grilled, baked, roasted, or boiled. Foods prepared this way contain less saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium compared to foods that are described as fried, deep-fried, golden, or smothered.

3)   Control the portions you eat.

The inevitable large portion served when eating out can make it difficult to control how much we consume. When grabbing a quick bite to eat, it can be helpful to save some of your food for later. This way you save time and money. When going out with friends, it can be helpful to share the plate with a friend!

Baked Chicken with Vegetables

Easy to make at home and easy to find a similar option at any restaurant of your choice!


  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Drizzle oil all over chicken and generously coat with seasoning mixture, shaking off excess. Place chicken on a sheet pan with 1 or 2 lemon slices on each piece.
  2. Bake until chicken is cooked through, or reads an internal temperature of 165°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. Cover chicken loosely with foil and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with a side of steamed vegetables and a slice of whole grain bread.

Healthy Eating on CSUN Campus

Spring semester will begin soon and although your schedule will get busier as we dive deeper into the semester, fast food places seem to result as our only option at times, but it is your call to make healthier choices. Next time you find yourself dining on campus or out at a restaurant, remember to include fruits and vegetables, look for key words on the menu, and control your portions for a healthier meal. You can do it! The Marilyn Magaram Center offers nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian who are always happy to help you more with making healthier choices and adapting to a healthier lifestyle. MMC is here for you!


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